when perspectives change

homemade cole slaw

If you had met me ten years ago, I would have told you I hated roller coasters, expressways, family vacations to Wisconsin and, with passion, every kind of dog, big or small. I didn’t like the texture of tomatoes until I grew my own, just two years ago. I didn’t like hot weather. And I didn’t like several people I knew, mainly because I’d labeled them weird, or fake, or rude, or something else.

Things change.

In every example named above, when my perspectives changed, so did my opinion: An October weekend with some college friends taught me strapping myself into Batman and letting it turn me upside down wouldn’t make me vomit—what’s more, it would be fun; A year spent studying in Florida, hundreds of miles from my family and friends, would cure me of my fear of expressways, if only because they were the means to the white sandy beaches; Four years away from my family made me appreciate them, and their vacations, more; we got a tiny white peekapoo, who, by the way, is at this moment sitting on my lap and my left arm, which makes typing an adventure, and named him Bailey, after my favorite movie character.

Old habits die hard, though, and that last group—the people—I’ll admit I still fight sometimes. Or, rather, the tendency to label them based on an initial impression. If I were more discerning—like my brother or my friend Becky, for example—this might be worth something, my first impressions, as theirs are seldom wrong. But mine? Almost always wrong, and almost always humbling.

I am learning, painfully slowly, to give people the benefit of the doubt and know that I don’t know their motivations or their back stories or their past. Maybe if I did, I would understand them better, you know? Like that guy on the road the other morning—that one who honked his horn for two straight minutes at the little old lady who was practically crying, on our way to a red light? Maybe if I ran into him at the post office, he’d be letting people in front of him in line. Or if I’m honest, maybe he’d be the one catching me rolling my eyes at someone or sighing loudly, like I have been known to do and regret, just obnoxiously enough so people know I’m not happy, like that is what is most important.

There are other examples of this learning, even beyond human interaction—like artichokes, celery root, carrot soups and kale, for example. Just when I am sure I don’t like something, I am proven wrong, my quick-draw character revealed. So it was with cole slaw.

cabbages

I have always hated cole slaw. There’s this sort-of-unwritten rule that people always have to bring it to picnics and summer parties; at restaurants, there’s often a tiny container thrown in with sandwiches or fried chicken, which I either throw away or generously offer to anyone willing to accept. I’ve tried it, once or twice, but have written it off, uninterested, unwilling to look its way again.

Until. Enter perspective change.

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the clear winner

shortbread

Just so you know, this is not a blog post I’m writing late Sunday night, much later than usual, propped up in bed with pillows and blankets, aware of how soon morning will come. Also, I’m certainly not typing cliché phrases for you about my heart being heavy or my mind racing, saying that the reason behind this is too hard to explain.

Instead, let’s say I wrote this hours ago—when I wasn’t making a vinaigrette for an arugula salad and then chopping cabbage for a cole slaw, say; before I wasn’t getting news that would set in motion change I’ve been anticipating (dreading) for months. Because if I had been writing this then, well, right now I’d still be ignorant, and, probably sleeping. Sleep sounds very, very fine.

s'mores bars

Thursday night, I made these two desserts: s’mores bars and chocolate pistachio shortbread, while we ate spring rolls and Bagel Bites and before I sat down to watch T.V. and—oh, the irony—fell fast asleep on the sofa, where I wouldn’t wake up until past 2 AM, after which I’d stumble to bed and sleep through my alarm in the morning.

The first comes from a recipe online, which I found through Google when a request for “something like s’mores in a bar” was given to me; the second, from that new cookbook my mom brought back from vacation. Both have all the makings of desserts I love: chocolate, sweet, rich, fairly easy to assemble. Yet one was the clear winner, as is evidenced by its being half-gone the next day, while the other still remains almost untouched.

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the kind you won’t let go

orange

I’ve been thinking about fables lately—those short, sweet stories with a moral tacked onto the end? One of Aesop’s tells about a boy who, reaching into a tall jar with a wide base of hazelnuts, grabs a large handful, greedy to bring the lot to his mouth. But, when his tightened fist won’t fit back up through the container’s slender neck, he bursts into tears and panic, having imprisoned his clenched fingers inside a jar full of hazelnuts, where the solution is as simple as releasing his grip.

I’ve heard that monkeys do this in real life. In tests, they supposedly leave their fists inside the jars, indefinitely, unwilling to release the nuts but also anxious about being caught in the jar. And I am fascinated. If I’m honest, it’s because I think they sound like me. Aesop’s intended moral was simple: Do not attempt too much at once; but mine would be more complex: You have got to let go and trust That Which Is Greater—because that is faith, and, because gripping things tightly doesn’t really make them yours anyway.

I hinted before at some upcoming big decisions/changes in the works around here, and, while I have nothing substantial or concrete to report, there have, slowly, been movements towards change—the loosening of my grip, as it were—and that is something. I almost rented a new apartment I loved; I’ve been pursuing some new writing opportunities; and I’ve been daydreaming a lot about what, in all of this, will matter 50 years from now.

Of course there has been food, too. That goes without saying. But what with all the change-seeking also taking my attention, I am very behind on telling you about it.

coconut citrus pancakes

For one thing, there were these pancakes.

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powerless against

rhubarb crumble

My mom is the kind of person who, after an extended weekend away in Wisconsin, returns home with gifts—individually wrapped caramels thrown in a white paper bag, a creamer set to match a teapot and, for me, a cookbook plus, by virtue of my confiscating them, a bunch of rhubarb, picked fresh from the garden. For this and many other reasons, I love this woman.

The closest I’ve come to growing my own rhubarb, beyond, I suppose, the minimal green thumb required of yearly tomato plants, is pulling leafy rhubarb stalks out of the ground in someone else’s yard, while being told exactly how not to use the fruit that is actually a vegetable. (The leafy parts are poisonous, but the pink stalks are tall and celery-like, easy to chop and turn into pies and crisps.)

But the important thing is, combined with enough sugar to balance its strong tartness, rhubarb is delicious. I love rhubarb. In fact, if you ask me to come over for a slice of fresh rhubarb anything, anytime, the answer will be yes. Always.

rhubarb

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