I must preface this post by explaining my SIX MONTH (!) absence. It’s not like I’ve been at home twiddling my thumbs in bed, watching reruns of Cheaters, eating cake pops, and sporting a permanent dark chocolate mustache. Although that would be pretty awesome. I’m going to use the most cliched of excuses and tell you that I’ve been busy. Extraordinarily busy. In a good way. Working, absorbing, and being a lot of tired. Lots of not knowing what the hell I am doing and in turn, experiencing the power of belief.
I’ve made my own little one-woman business, and my career dreams have begun to show themselves. (Also, yay! I get to wear yoga pants to work!) In this past year, I’ve also made hundreds of dishes that I cannot wait to share. As a result, boom: my kitchen knowledge has exploded. My old snail-like tendencies have been replaced with confident, dextrous and swift movement. Well, let’s call it swiftly awkward. I’m still me. Sometimes it’s cute and sometimes it’s really not. It’s also super hot and my dad tells me I smell like fried yuca when he kisses me on the head.
Right alongside these aforementioned kitchen concoctions, I also a whip up some mean mountains out of molehills.
Sometimes it’s planets from a specks of dust. Heaping cups and gallons from droplets. Tsunamis from the miniscule man-made “beach” waves at Disney’s typhoon lagoon.
On any given day, I go on a totally self-inflicted set of worry binges. They range in size. It’s like I’m in a dimension of escalators in the mall of my mind, and I place my tiny worries at their base. Then they just figuratively ride along, up, up, and up. They might turn into a shitshow, like if my worst fear happens and we get a stuck shoelace. Eek, then we’re really on our way to doomsville. Sayonara, foot. If we’re being real here, as we always are, I know everyone goes through this. Even our beloved quote-master, Mr. Mark Twain himself, said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
I was talking to my uber awesome acupuncturist about this, about how the “stress” in my life is affecting or perhaps totally impeding the work she is doing on me. Yeah, I’m worried about it. Because stress and worry in the brain tense and clench our muscles, tendons, what lies deep inside and our (or just mine?) digestive systems like electrical currents. They clog our artery system with mind-morphed-into-body junk. She tells me it’s normal; that everyone feels stress. But I think about my life and it’s not even that stressful. I mean, yeah my job(s) is (are) stressful. People count on me to eat/drink/be healthy and that’s a big responsibility. Also because like someone else, Mr. Papa Roach, my weakness is that I care too much.
Taking on all these stresses and imaginary worry worlds is destructive. We must be able to take ourselves out of these situations. Let’s be objective by picturing our brains sprouting tiny wings and flying out of our heads, and look at what’s actually happening: the truth. If we see things from this perspective, we see that things aren’t really that bad. We’re definitely not starving. We get to live in comfortable homes or apartments. We have friends around us. We laugh. We get to ride around and move our bodies and connect with others and experience life. We have everything we need to survive. No one is dying, at least not yet.
The schemes that materialize in our heads are usually non-existent. Because the world and reality is beautiful if we just let things happen the way they should. If we just look at what is without attaching our crazy thoughts to it. Honestly, some of my happiest moments occur when I’m driving around, listening to some super fun tunes, and I’m just like wow, everything is okay right now. Sometimes it happens when I’m washing dishes, which I spend a lot of time doing. Weird, right?
If we just stay in the moment, and go through we need to go through, step by step, day by day, everything is okay. And it’s never as bad as it seems to be. And if it is, it’ll still be okay, because it’s all in this moment. It can be easy because we can think it easy.
I wouldn’t be me and this blog wouldn’t be this blog if I didn’t compare this notion of life and worry to something very worthy of our hunger and stomach real estate. So how are our worry waterfalls like this baked ratatouille? We all know what ratatouille is…I hope. It’s a French mixed medley of cooked summer vegetables. But the thing with ratatouille, in its traditional European glory, is that each delicate vegetable’s flavor must be coaxed out individually. Wow. That can be a lot and to be frank, sometimes, I just don’t feel like it. Well, it can be easy because we can make it easy. We can cut all of the vegetables, make a tomato sauce that will punch your taste buds in the mouth, toss it together, cover it, and fuggeddaboutit except for a few therapeutic tosses. The food that presents itself from the oven is something so amazing you’d never think it could be this simple. It can.
The same thing can happen with our lives. Because after we conjure up this worry stew and the monsoon passes, what emerges is amazing. Because we believed it could. Because, it just is.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma and my trusty mother, who has used this in her recipe repertoire since I can remember.
Serves 6 as a side portion
1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 zucchini, halved and cut into rounds 1/2-inch thick
2 red or green bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, brushed clean and quartered
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/3 cup red or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
Set your oven at 400 degrees F. Coat a large roasting pan (I used 9′ x 13′) with oil or butter.
To the roasting pan, add the eggplant, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, and onions. In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste, vinegar, water, oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and stir until blended and smooth. Add to the roasting pan, then stir and toss to combine and coat the vegetables evenly.
Bake until the vegetables begin to soften, about 30 minutes, stirring once at the halfway point. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F. Cover the roasting pan and bake until the vegetables are soft and tender but not mushy, about 30 minutes longer, stirring every ten minutes.
Remove from the oven, uncover, and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in the basil or parsley and serve hot, at room temperature or cold.