Scott and I are out west again. We can’t seem to stay away from the open road, the blanket sunsets, the landscape swirled with mountains like mounds of thick frosting. We’ve now resumed our place on the Oregon Trail, after spending one heavenly week in Montana with Scott’s family. I could not have asked Santa Claus for a better week. Nor a better addition to the dear group I consider my own family. The whole experience was infinitely greater than the sum of its parts, and that is exceptionally difficult to believe considering how exceptionally great the parts themselves were. We skied in powdered sugar. We lived in a beautiful, ski-to-the-door, rustic lodge featuring a kitchen with whom I wanted to have babies. The golden-hearted Cath and Larry covered all resort expenses for everyone. I cooked and fed homemade pumpkin curry to all. We designated one certain morning as our own Christmas Day; Candace and Cynthia gave me a Cuisinart ice cream maker without even knowing it had stolen my heart months ago. We slurped hot soup, bundled at the bottom of the slopes. We collectively screamed and cursed as we ran barefoot on the snow-carpeted porch to the bone-melting Jacuzzi. We choked with laughter for hours on end, playing games, swapping stories, filling seemingly insignificant moments with purpose. The kindness I experienced was beyond anything I could have dreamt up. As was the laughter.
The night we played Cranium, I found myself wishing the game would never end. Abs sore and laugh lines engraved in my cheeks, I noshed on macadamia nuts, soaking in their flavor and all flavors surrounding me, believing life could not be better. Then I had another thought. Um, it was about food, of course:
Removing sugar from my diet has been the greatest kindness I’ve ever done for my taste buds.
Maybe I was simply drunk with joy, and everything tasted better in my drunken stupor. But maybe not. As each buttery nut passed my lips, it tasted different from the one that came before. One would taste sweet and ripened like a fruit. The next would meet my bite with a crisp snap and a salty kiss. These macadamia nuts were completely raw, with no other ingredient added. How was it possible for me to register so many contrasting flavors, to discern the slightest differences in each individual one?
It made me wonder if the American palate is normally so cluttered that we’ve become desensitized to true tastes. Perhaps we’ve overwhelmed our taste buds with so much artificial flavoring, so many unpronounceable ingredients, so many laboratory-concocted, barely-edible Frankensteins that we’re missing out on the natural miracle of truly tasting our food. Savoring what Nature has given us to eat. And if our palates are so cluttered, what’s to stop us from assuming that everything else is as well? Our minds? Our lives?
I’ve been spending time uncovering what lies beneath the Facebook status updates, the strangely ego-driven tweets, the routine, the game we live, the things we do because we feel we should do them, the things we do because they give us the “gift” of feeling “normal.” And in sorting through these ideas, I’ve started clearing away. Clearing away thoughts. And clearing away things as easily as if they were mere thoughts. I’ve cut my closet in half, given away trinkets I don’t use, books I don’t read, memorabilia that no longer serves me. I’ve embraced Minimalism. Things: They are what most of us use to define ourselves. They’re a language. They’re a value system. But what happens when we don’t have them? What remains? We are not a pair of suede boots. We are not a stellar resumé. And as much as I hate to admit it, we are not even our Cuisinart ice cream makers.
When we clear away the things we think make life sweet, what remains?
Life unsweetened, unsalted, raw. And it is infinitely more flavorful than the sweetened version. Just like those macadamia nuts.
I poured my life through a sieve in Montana. The kindness, laughter, and human bonding that remained is enough to satisfy me for the rest of my life.
Whether you celebrate or not: Merry Christmas.
For me, you remain too.
Cardamom Rose Pistachio Butter
This rich, festive nut butter is perfectly suited for the holidays… And though its color matches the Grinch’s complexion, my heart grew three sizes upon the first bite.
*I submitted this recipe to Diet, Dessert and Dogs’ Wellness Weekend
1 1/2 cups truly raw pistachios
1/4 tsp himalayan salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp rosewater
1/4 tsp cardamom
16 drops stevia (or to taste)
1) Place pistachios in food processor and grind until a fine flour.
2) Add remaining ingredients to food processor.
3) Process until a smooth butter is created.