Parsnip and semolina flatbreads

Parsnip rosemary flatbread

Parsnip rosemary flatbread

It’s been a heavy sort of a week. Everything feels a little more dangerous and uncertain than it generally does in our part of the world. It would be easy to fall into an anxious frame of mind, and hide under the covers all day. I’ve got all sorts of heavy thoughts in my head, because I’m that kind of person, and all sorts of serious things to talk about. But the thoughts that keep rising to the surface are much lighter, brighter thoughts. They’re about a cartoon. We have a fairly strict NO TV BEFORE SCHOOL policy in our house. But, like all our fairly strict policies, it’s made to be broken. Lately we’ve been watching one 11-minute episode of Adventure Time each morning, and I can’t tell you how much it’s grown on me! It’s the story of Jake the Dog and Finn the Human, they live together (without parental supervision!) in a giant rambling tree house. They go on adventures. They wander their strange world looking for evil to fight and people to save–they’re self-proclaimed heroes. The beautiful thing about them is that they’re like children–they’re like my children–they’re silly and they make dumb fart jokes, they don’t fully understand the adult world around them, but they wade through it anyway. They don’t fully understand their own emotions, but they try. They’re cheerful, they’re pranksters, they’re good friends, they’re up for anything. They seem fearless, and in many episodes it’s their fearlessness that saves them. Because in the cartoon, as in life, oftentimes the evildoers’ only real power is to cause fear and manipulate people based on their fear. But they’re not fearless. In my favorite episode, Finn confronts his fear of the ocean, using Jake’s five-step method (which includes rhyming couplets!). I’m scared of the ocean! It was bizarrely comforting to learn that Finn is too. And he never overcomes that fear, he learns to embrace it, because all heroes have a flaw. Finn and Jake live in the land of Ooo, which is a very strange place. But while all the strange situations feel so familiar, and the characters feel so human–flawed and morally complicated, petty and generous, brave and foolish. There’s a childlike logic to the show that makes it feel so perfect–that makes it comforting and inspiring in the way that talking to Malcolm and Isaac is comforting and inspiring. The way they look at the world is so rationally nonsensical and hopeful. I like to walk to school with Isaac humming the end credits theme song in my head. “We can wander through the forest and do so as we please.” That’s what we do! We wander through the forest together. And it’s a little easier to face a heavy scary world if you do so as heroes, looking for adventure, trying to be righteous, trying to muddle through.

These flatbreads contain some pureed parsnip, which makes them nice and soft and flavorful. And they have rosemary and semolina, which makes them even nicer and more flavorful. Malcolm loved them and asked if he could have one for his lunch the next day, but the dog ate the leftover flatbreads right off the table! Bad girl!!

Here’s the ending theme of Adventure Time.

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Millet, red lentil, and sweet potato dal and pumpkin ricotta flatbreads

Millet dal and pumpkin flatbread

Millet dal and pumpkin flatbread

Yesterday around mid-morning, I spent ten minutes sitting on the couch in my pajamas, with Clio half-on/half-off my lap. I petted her velvety ears and watched people rush by in the rain. They seemed so busy and productive, and I could just imagine how the world smelled like rain to them, and how they felt icy drops trickling into their collars, and how their cars had that feverish chilled-but-warming feeling. And here I was, so toasty and still and unproductive. I felt like I was in a Basho poem. I thought of the quote from the Hagekure (and Ghost Dog!)

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. By doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to all things.

I found that I didn’t feel quite so unproductive, because my mind was busy, and then I felt foolish for thinking that. Then I thought about writing about thinking about writing about sitting there. And then Clio said, “Man, you’re cramping my style. I’ve got some napping to be getting on with.” The mail came, but I didn’t bring it in because it’s only bills and advertisements. Then I went up to clean the bathroom, and thought about writing about that, but luckily for you I won’t do that. When I was little, I used to narrate my actions in my head in the third person. Not all the time, because that would be crazy! But often. “And then Claire sat on a bench in the middle of the room. She always got through with looking at paintings before everyone else. She did everything quickly. And now she sat and watched the people looking at the paintings…” And on an on it goes! I feel like I’ve been doing that again lately, because of The Ordinary. Not in third person now, so it’s slightly less eccentric. But when I cook, I’ll think about writing about it, and aboutexplaining how it’s done. And sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, and try to occupy my brain with whatever I might say on here the next day (explains a lot about the quality of the work, doesn’t it?) and I’ll find myself writing in my head. And, yes, this might seem crazy, but I think this is a good thing!!! I firmly believe that the more you write, the more you write. The more you think about writing, the more you’ll write, and hopefully it will become a habit. (This doesn’t guarantee good writing, mind you! It just makes it easier to get started.) I think this understanding extends to all things. The more you draw, the more you’ll draw. If you want to make movies, you should watch movies, talk about movies, take photographs, write movies, make shorts. The more you cook, the more you’ll think about cooking, and the more you’ll want to try new things and experiment with new ingredients, until you’ll get sick of it all and go out to dinner. If you want to make music, the more you listen to songs, and practice making music, and think about music, the more life will present itself to you as a song. Because even if writing and making movies and drawing aren’t important, which, arguably they’re not at all, I’d still like to go through life looking for things to write about (or sing about or draw pictures of.) Just as the actors that work with Jaques Tati started to see little comic pieces in everyday exchanges in the world around them, you’ll start to find that even small things are worth noticing and remembering and examining, which in some way makes life worth living.

And now I feel foolish for writing about writing, so let’s talk about this dal instead. It’s made with red lentils, millet and sweet potatoes, and it’s cooked for some time, which makes it dense and soft and porridgey. Red lentils are nice because they cook quickly, but if you cook them longer, as (I believe) Indian dals are cooked, they take on a whole different life. I added spinach and peas to pep things up and provide a little texture. And I used beautiful black cardamom pods, which are so smoky and sweet (but watch out for them when you eat the dal, you wouldn’t want to bite down on one!) I decided that cumin was too obvious in this dish, so I left it out in favor of other sweet and smoky spices, like cardamom, nigella seeds and smoked paprika. The flat breads were quick and easy to make – they have a little pumpkin puree and a little ricotta, which gives them a nice flavor and texture, and they were just crunchy enough to provide a pleasant contrast to the soft dal.

Here’s Station Showdown from the Yojimbo soundtrack, cause it’s all about the millet. Golly, this soundtrack is brilliant!

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Spicy fava-roasted carrot puree and caraway pepper flatbreads

Spicy fava carrot purée

We’re hunkered and bunkered down, waiting for hurricane Sandy to stop by. At the moment we’ve got driving rain and fairly wild wind. But we still have power, so I can’t complain. We’re all a little stir crazy, but I’m actually having a nice day. We’re all together, the boys didn’t have school, and we were asked to stay off the roads, so David is home, too. I baked a cake. I made a big pot of sweet potato, red bean, kale and pumpkin ale chili that will hopefully keep warm for dinner if the power goes out, and I’m currently drinking the rest of the pumpkin ale. We’ll sit and draw for a while. I can’t complain!

I’m not up to my usual rambling nonsense, so I made a playlist about storms, floods, winds and rain. I’m open to suggestions for songs to add!

caraway flatbread

And I’ll just tell you quickly about this yummy meal. Loosely based on my understanding of tunisian carrot salads and on Ethiopian ful, this is a spicy puree of carrots, olives, and fava beans (the dried and cooked kind, I used a canned variety) Quick to make, and delicious with these caraway seed flatbreads.

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Basil & black pepper naan

Basil and black pepper naan

This recipe isn’t completely authentic – it involves more butter than any I’ve seen in a cookbook – but it is fun to make and good to eat! The basic recipe, as I make it, is similar to a simple pastry dough, with yogurt added at the end instead of ice water. And the whole process is not as icy and distant. You knead the dough for a few minutes, but it’s a very enjoyable dough to knead – soft but not too sticky. I added basil and black pepper, because I like basil with curry spices (we ate it with a cashew butternut squash curry and leftover kofta). The basil smells wonderful while these are cooking! I cooked them on a hot griddle, and then put them under the broiler to puff a bit, and then kept them in a warm oven till I was ready for them. They’re nice toasted the next day, too – they get crispy.

Here’s K’naan’s ABCs. Because it’s a brilliant song, and because my son just got his first headphones, and it’s the sweetest thing in the world to hear him sing along to this song.
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