Options are irrelevant to the subject matter. The point is: there’s always options. So many and too many that bombard us in all periphery directions. How do we choose? For a somewhat indecisive person like myself, this can be completely overwhelming and distressing. Because we don’t need that many options. For anything. People all around you have found the “something-whatever” of their dreams and in the end of their search, they’ve found peace. And this is the kind of thing that you won’t know until it happens to you. Because you see these people and you’re perplexed. Really, you’re done? Please elaborate on how you did this. Because they’ve found the right thing. I’m currently living this, and the thing has to do with a little squash and a bunch of indecision.
Do boundaries between parents and their children ever cease to exist? Because my dad always chooses to knock on my door at the precise moment that I am undressed or changing. Picture Jack Gellar, Monica’s dad on Friends….the one that walks in on you while you’re changing. Sheesh, I guess this is what happens when you’re 27 years old and still live with your parents, as I do. In Latin cultures this is very typical. Additionally, when you live in your old but completely revamped and comfortable bedroom, your parents leave you alone…. for the most part, give you good food, you’re saving money and they’re always delighted to see you, there’s no reason to not stay.
Who else thinks of Forrest Gump as Elvis pops up in the brain? Particularly, the scene in which Forrest is dancing and creeping along to “you ain’t nothing but a hound dog” (sorry — I just put it in your head) while Elvis stays at the Gump plantation bed and breakfast…later, Forrest witnesses that Elvis totally copycatted his moves on TV. I feel like Elvis was a nice and swell guy and I feel drawn to him. And the need to someday go to Graceland occupies a line on my ever-growing bucket list. Why? Like many things in my life, I have no clue. For some reason this bizarre establishment appeals to me. I’m not sure when my little feet will step into the great state of Tennessee next, but if they do, you’ll be sure to find me at that weird white church-like house. It’s more like a plantation, isn’t it? I’d be taken in to see where Elvis slept, composed his music, tourguided by Lisa Marie or Priscilla. Yeah, I haven’t contemplated this at all.
It’s bizarre how one simple dish can divide like mitosis into completely different experiences, vibing to the environmental mood and energy it was eaten in and who it was eaten with. The food loses meaning as it’s totally engulfed by its surroundings and the significance we’ve subsequently given it. How many times have you eaten a forgettable, mediocre tasting birthday cake, that somehow tasted spectacular because of the lovely people who sang to you? The next day you ate it alone and boo-hoo, you’re shocked to see it’s really not that good. It’s because of the story. It’s because of the hype. On the same wavelength, how many times has someone told you NEED to go to this here restaurant because it’s SO FREAKING GOOD, and then you go and you’re like uhhh…..not really man. Maybe it was their experience, their environment. Their everything that made up their meal, everything except the food.
There is a certain time of year we all long for, the one that makes us feel most alive and connected to each other. Doesn’t it always sneak up on us like a cat creeping around the corner? Summer lazily morphs into October, which overflows into November and then poof, it’s Thanksgiving, and then a day later, it’s Christmas and then oh…hey, New Years, it’s 2013. This time of year is for feasting, it’s for family and friends and it’s for love. It’s for kinda boozy weekday parties and boozier weekend soirees, the ones you get to finally bust out that evening dress, where you’ll actually do your hair and spritz some perfume.
Do you consider yourself a dulce de leche aficionado? If so, you’re living right. If not…seriously, why? You probably haven’t tried dulce de leche. Or at least not the right one. Which is an unfortunate and sad place many of us find ourselves. We either crave this food heaven or see it in a recipe and we need it this instant. But sometimes, it’s nowhere to be found. Fortunately for me, Miami is a good place to find dulce de leche. That’s because a whopping majority of the population is Hispanic. It’d be weird if it wasn’t easily located. Its whereabouts are a problem when you venture up a bit north, and a huge dilemma when you find yourself the Northeast or other areas of the US (out outside of the US, like Italy) that do not have the strong hispanic influence.
Our lives occurrences take place in a fan of departments. Picture life as one big department store, and we’re roaming around the men’s, women’s, shoes, lingerie, sports, and home areas except our real life’s departments aren’t necessarily that simple. Deep down I think we all know the love department always takes precedence. Isn’t that the first thing someone asks you when they haven’t seen you in a while? “Sooooo…are you seeing anyone? How’s it going with fulanito? When’s the ring coming?” Things happen in the our personal home department, you might be getting a total new update or a new kitchen or are bulldozing things all by yourself or you might have just bought a cute little throw pillow or a lazy Susan. All equally worthy updates. The job department. Eek. Things are always-a-changing on that horizon, especially now with the workings of our world. These departments are normal and expected. But my favorite department of all, is the department of you-never-know.
Transformations are interesting, and they’re usually brought to light about the physical form. People love to tell you about these things. But why are transformations only newsworthy material if they’re on the outside? What about the true transformations, the ones that are significantly more difficult, the ones that take constant work and attention, and happen in the act of facing our problems and the truth of the realities and our lives, the ones that happen inside of us?
Isn’t it weird how when we were children we thought pumpkin’s only purpose was to symbolize our ghostly holiday? Is this just me? Did you haphazardly carve a wacky face into them that might or might not be vomiting seeds? Did your parents get you that super cool carving kit that let you go all-out with the decoration? They were scary jack-o-lanterns with a candle inside, illuminating their insides and faces with its familiar yellow glow, and suggesting trick or treaters or costumes. For a large portion of my life, that’s all I thought pumpkins were, a Halloween accessory. I can’t believe I had been missing out on eating this lovely little literal creature. I have always seen canned pumpkin, as it’s everywhere in sight, but I guess I never thought about where that came from exactly….the word “pumpkin” on the can didn’t seem to give it away for me. I never knew you could take that lovely and perfectly wavy and ruffled hard skin of a pumpkin that I loved to feel and touch, peel it and carve it in an entirely different way, and eat it in a rotating wheel of assortments.
Like bake them into cakes or souffles or pies, boil them into soups in which you use the pumpkin as a bowl (so cool), puree them into pasta or stuff that puree into thin sheets of ravioli. Or roast them. Simply, preferably, with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, over what is the prototype of my food dream: goat cheese cream. I would seriously gobble this stuff up like a turkey or use it as lotion if skin could taste or something to require forever permanence in my life. The pumpkin seeds are also utilized, they’re roasted with salt and pepper, another childhood halloween memory for me.
When you go get a pumpkin this year, buy two and enjoy both of them in different ways, because you don’t want to eat a rotting pumpkin. Have one with your family, in the form of carving and act as a simple spectator. Let it be that symbol. Make the other to open your world up to eat it entirely, the way nature intended it to be.
Roasted pumpkin & goat cheese salad
Adapted from Jeremy Sewall
Makes enough to serve 4 as a light lunch or dinner, 8 as a side
Notes: Don’t limit yourself to thinking pumpkin is the only squash you can use in this recipe. Feel free to use sugar pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash or delicata squash. Simply peel, halve, remove the seeds, and chop as you would a regular pumpkin.
Acorn squash and delicata squash skin is soft enough to eat, and not necessary to peel. I’d definitely peel the other varieties though.
When it comes to peeling, make sure you have a sharp knife. Duller varieties can make peeling squashes dangerous. I’ve detailed instructions below on the best way to cut your pumpkin.
For the goat cheese, use a fresh variety. This is the one that’s found in the grocery store in log form. Specialty stores sell it in tubs when it’s fresher.
1 large pumpkin or squash
4 sprigs thyme or rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 small bunch parsley or arugula
Peel & roast your pumpkin
Cut the top and bottom off of your pumpkin. Starting at the top, hold your knife closely, firmly, and deliberately to the skin and peel the skin from top to bottom, rotating around the pumpkin til it’s skinless. Halve the pumpkin lengthwise and remove the seeds, setting them aside. If you’re using a sugar pumpkin, the halves can be roasted whole. Rub the halves with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste and place the thyme or rosemary sprigs on top. Arrange the pieces cut-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and roast until tender, about 45 minutes – 1 hour. Cool slightly and slice each half in half, and cut the pumpkin into 1/2-inch thick pieces crosswise.
(Alternatively, you can slice the pumpkins into pieces of your choosing and roast them flat on a baking sheet. The reason we roasted and then sliced is for the clean presentation of the dish.)
Meanwhile, rinse the seeds and remove all of the stringy stuff. Toss them with a glug of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and arrange them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Stick them right in your oven with your pumpkin, and roast them for about 45 minutes or until they’re crisp, tossing them around every 10 minutes or so. Cool and set aside.
Make the goat cheese cream
In a food processor or with an electric mixer, puree the goat cheese until smooth. Add in the heavy cream slowly, pureeing just until combined. We don’t want to puree it too much because it will whip, and although we want it light we also want it with a bit of substance.
Arrange your salad
Place a big dollop of cream in the center of the plate and spread it around. Arrange the pumpkin slices on top. Pour a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top, to taste. Sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and some parsley or arugula.
Is it just the conversations I’m part of, or do conversations always end up covering the topic of life’s purpose at some point. People love to put in their hypotheses and two cents….or four thousand dollars…. on this subject. Does purpose mean procreating and leaving behind a legacy, someone to carry on what you started here on this earth so it’s this sort of momentumized life of you and your essence until someone decides that that is not their purpose? Is it visiting each crevice of this vast world and discovering new cultures? Is it finding that soulmate, the one that you hope will complete you and has you at hello? Is it getting close to and finding God, whoever or however you perceive Him to be? Is it fulfilling your dreams?