Wednesday 18 March 2015

Change & Sunsets on a plate: Roasted Squash & Parsnip with Rice & Lentil mix

Change. It's all around. The only constant. Why then haven't we learnt to understand a way to live with it, to thrive with its presence, to figure it out?

It's been three weeks, almost four since I wrote about being held up in my little abode, munching on chocolate cookies and trying to keep the cold away. Such a lot has changed in three weeks. I think about the future constantly when I worry and what I'll do, if I'm closer to my goals of travelling, writing, photographing, farming, surfing, crafting. I wonder if I'll ever get there and then I stop. I stop and realize that the change I long for also entails a change that speeds past as I over-think. It's almost the end of March. December will arrive again and my plans for winter sun escapes and new experiences will be before me in no time. I'm detached from time but I'm also obsessed with it. It's like a wicked spell. The more I want it to hurry up so I can be on a farm by the sea, the faster time passes and I fall into a trap of losing precious time that runs concurrently to my fast paced thoughts.

I've given change a lot of the thought recently and my relationship to it. Last summer, someone asked me a simple but mind-opening question: "What it be like if you treated yourself with the love and care you would give to a child who'd had a difficult time?". I thought about what I would do. I'd bring the kid for walks in the park, on the beach, through fields and forests. I'd cook her whatever she wanted while at the same time making delicious, colourful, seasonal food. I'd dish up her dishes like she was at a restaurant so that she would feel as though she were special. I'd make her mornings stress free. I'd create a warm home, a sanctuary of a room where she could think through her thoughts calmly, creatively, with freedom. I'd listen to everything she had to say; her worries, dreams, current concerns. I'd bring her to the movies, invite her friends over, create fun drawings and sketches, take photos, plant vegetables, dig soil, collect feathers, knit, sing and make her hot chocolate when it was cold.

I'd still make sure to pay the bills, earn some money to take care of both of us, put out the bins every second week, remember her appointments but the priority would be to help her feel happy, relaxed and creative in the now and to learn that change happens everyday but that was nothing to fear, that was all part of the natural cycle of things, like seasons, tides and cycles of the moon.

It's strange how city life can take over, blanket the carefree, simple wants of a creative soul. When I first arrived here, I thought it would be temporary. Get a job, save and then head off, moving from one warm farm by the sea to another. Then I stayed, spent my money, got caught up, got impatient, prioritized the little stuff of bills and treats. I started to forget about what adults call the little things but actually they are the most important. Connection with nature, free time, creativity, love, friendship.

Some mornings I wake up and stare out my new back garden in wonderment and awe at its beauty and all the plans I have to give it my time and love and energy. Then I come home after work and the spirit is gone. Other mornings I think I could happily stay here for years, grow into the house, maybe meet someone to share this little place with. Then I start making lists and sketches of places I want to travel to in flip flops and sunburnt shoulders next February. It's a battle with change and I'm starting to learn, a futile one.

A friend told me this morning that she'd seen my ex, spoken with him, that he looked the same as always, tall and strong, happy, healthy, that it was good to see him. It's been a year and a half since we broke up and five months since we last saw each other and spoke and yet I wanted to puke as I tried to smile and asked "Wow. How is he?". I would struggle to utter his name. Some change is easier than others. I'm not in love with him anymore and haven't been for a long time and yet the fear of bumping into him, of hearing his voice, of knowing anything about him, hurts. The heart doesn't forget, it seems.

Last weekend, a great friend told me that while she had lived in South Korea for eight months, she read my blog and was impressed with the honesty. She said we all go through the things I write about but that somehow me being honest and writing about what I'm going through makes her feel less worried about herself, feel less alone. Sometimes I write a blog post like this one and freak out. I worry how other people will think of me, what they'll say, how they'll react, how they'll judge me and how I write about what's going on and that the food, the photography sometimes comes secondary, even though it all links together.

Then I stop and think about that little girl that needs some help and not some judgement. I've had a rough few years but this morning I laughed my ass off as I read a text from a great friend. I sat in my cozy sitting room and ate warming porridge as I looked out my window and admired the progress of a full day spent in the garden yesterday. I shared a joke about companion planting with another great friend. We talked about planting out early. It felt like the most important thing to talk about all day and I was so happy that it was focused around growing. I cracked jokes with students in school and the sun was still up nearly two hours after finishing work. These are all expansive changes from last year. I'm proud of the changes I've made. I'm proud of how I've moved closer to myself. That's change too.

The idea now is to trust in change, accept that it exists and stay present no matter what that might involve. Looking back on my instagram account, I noticed how prevalent oranges and reds were, as though I needed those colors in my food and line of vision to keep me warm through winter.

These recipes celebrate how vibrant orange foods kept me warm, brought color into my kitchen and a smile to my face, like a sunset on a plate. Squash and parsnip are the neglected winter veggies often enough. They seem arduous to prepare and complicated to cook but when handled with care and a few tricks, they glow from a plate and warm your belly full of winter goodness. Celebrating the last of winter with this recipe feels right. Like I'm celebrating the now and embracing what it has to offer.

I hope my writing helps you, makes you think/laugh/sigh/any other emotion you want to feel. I hope the recipe helps you to reconnect with the season before it goes away and prepare for Spring this weekend. Thanks for reading.

Butternut Squash 
I large butternut squash                                 
1 handful of fresh thyme                                 
2 Tbs Coconut oil melted                           
Salt and pepper to season                    
4-6 Large parsnips       
2 tsp cumin seeds    
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 Tbs Coconut oil melted        
1 Tbs honey
salt and pepper to taste

Rice & Lentils 
1 cup mixed red, black & white rice
1 cup puy lentils 
4 cups cold water

Preheat oven to 190 C. Slice squash into inch thick circular slices, leaving the seeds intact. Place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, thyme, salt and pepper and place in oven and cook for 50-60 minutes, turning over half way. Peel parsnips and cut length ways into thick strips (like potato wedges). Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil, toss in cumin seeds, coriander seeds and salt and pepper. Leave the honey aside for the last five minutes. Cook for 40-50 minutes. At the last five minutes, when the parsnips are cooked through (skewer with a knife), toss the honey through and place back in for a final blast of heat.

For the rice and lentils, measure out the rice and puy and place into pot. Add cold water, place a lid on the pot and bring to the boil, then turn low and simmer for 40 minutes or until all the water has been evaporated. 

I served all these together with a quick dressing of 2 tbs olive oil and juice of half a lemon mixed through the rice. Bliss. Hope you enjoyed the writing and you make the most of the last few days of winter.

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