I had Rocco strapped into his high chair fingering a fat wedge of avocado the first time I thought to pick up the other, unsliced half, scoop out its pit, and dump the bright, green flesh into the Vitamix to blend up for a drink. Inspired by a Bon Appetit recipe I’d seen that combined half an avocado with a cup of water, a teaspoon each of agave and lime juice and then a little vanilla, I mixed those ingredients (subbing honey) along with some ice. I tasted it. More honey. I poured a glass. This pale green concoction came out sweet, thin, refreshing—the sort of thing you’d want to have sitting next to you while you’re sitting next to the pool or at the beach. The squeeze (or, in my case, squeezes) of honey turned the typically blank taste canvas of the avocado into something that met and overpowered the very craving that, moments before deciding to make a smoothie, had seen me setting a pint of ice cream on the counter so it could get soft enough to scoop. Soon I was putting that pint back into the freezer (because who needs ice cream when you’re drinking an avocado smoothie like this?).
In our little Nashville household, we drink smoothies almost every day, all kinds. Maybe you do, too. This isn’t something I learned from my childhood—quite the opposite, in fact. Growing up in 1980s and ‘90s Midwestern America, the only smoothies I knew were at the mall, available for a fistful of cash and as sweet as milkshakes; I liked the strawberry banana best. But times have changed. I manage a job from home that, 20 or 30 years ago, would have required my going into an office; my husband and I met through blogs, of all things; we eat avocado; we use einkorn flour; smoothies are our breakfast of choice. I like to think I’m an individual, a free agent, making all my choices independently, on my own, but one look at smoothies, and I see how much a product of my culture I’ve become. Something once reserved for takeout has become something as normal as cereal or oatmeal, something with 73 million results in a Google search (compare that with the 23.9 million results for “milkshake,” just for a point of reference) and something, not just in the Mallon kitchen but, indeed, across most people groups, beloved. So, yes, one hundred years ago, smoothies as we now know them didn’t exist, but then, hey, neither did a lot of things that define modern society: television, digital cameras, the Internet, social media, blogs.
The now-ubiquitous smoothie’s wheels were set in motion back in 1922, when the blender first appeared on the food scene, all because a Wisconsin engineer realized affixing a motor to a cup with blades could mean magic when it came to milk and fruit; by the ‘50s, there’d been a million Waring blenders sold; and by the ‘70s, there was a growing chain of restaurants—Smoothie King—revolving around the idea. Yet still something more happened between 1990s Chicagoland where I lived in a house with a blender I didn’t use and 2016 America where everyone everywhere blends up fruits and vegetables to drink. The smoothie train hit some kind of tipping point and took off exponentially, kind of the way blogs, once mentioned by journalists with a shrug of the shoulder and “maybe they’ll be something” have become mainstream, big enough to affect even me. And smoothies do have a lot going for them: they make an easy meal, they pack a lot of nutrients into a single glass, they offer endless flavor combinations from bananas and yogurt to avocado and lime—mostly, though, what makes smoothies so addictive and nonignorable could be this:
I’ve been blogging since 2008. Actually, I’ve been food blogging since 2008, but blogging in some form or another since before then. I was an English major in college and a Writing major in grad school, so maybe it’s obvious why jumping into a medium that revolved around words made sense. I’ve sat in a grad class, in 2006 or 2007, where a professor asked a class full of writers if anyone read blogs, and been one of only two sitting there whose hand went up; I’ve sat in coffee shops across the country just years after that with people who blog, talking about things like making connections through the Internet and/or practicing a craft; I’ve written, in my day job as a freelancer, articles about Internet topics I’m already immersed in, such as how to use Instagram to build your brand, how to work with companies to create sponsorships, why being generous on social media is a good way to be. But, like I said to my friend Joanna recently, Internet time moves at lightning speed. One year of the Internet is like 20 years somewhere else. So even having been involved in the blog world for around ten years, I can’t keep up with it. I don’t get a lot of it. It’s changed and changing so much. And even though I’ve been tuned in, have tried to keep up, have generally wanted to see and notice how and why the Internet changes—along the way, I think I forgot to ask harder questions, like, how the Internet might be changing me.
Last week, I attended a film screening for “Many Beautiful Things,” a documentary about Lilias Trotter, a contemporary of John Ruskin, the artist I most remember for being featured in one of my favorite books. Trotter, it has been discovered, was a painter that Ruskin felt could be one of the greatest of her day—and since Ruskin was basically the Academy Awards of painters back then, his opinion was a big deal—but instead of pursuing the art the way Ruskin felt she should, Trotter traveled with two friends to Africa, to live among the poor, to see who she could help. She kept painting, this documentary made almost one hundred years after her life reveals, but she remained fairly unknown and unrecognized, painting mostly for her own sketchbooks and journals. “She was an iconoclast,” someone said of her in the film. She defied the expectations of her time. She didn’t marry. She didn’t seek worldly success. She pursued an upside-down way of life that nobody quite understood. When everything around her was saying to do one thing, she went ahead and did the opposite.
She was, however, it’s worth saying, happy. It seems she pursued the thing that made her soul sing. And at the end of her life, after years of seeking first a kingdom not found in earthly praise, she looked up from her death bed speaking of chariots she saw, along with “many, many beautiful things.”
This is not a post about how I’m leaving blogs and social media, nor about how those things have ruined society or life. I’m not and they haven’t. It’s true I’m not on Instagram, at least for now, because, if you’re curious, I can see my own vanity, my own desire to be liked, as well as my own impatience and how that pushes me to consume, quickly, constantly, rather than to sit and chew on an idea, any idea, for a while. But I can see that off Instagram just as well as on it, so Instagram is not the point.
This is also not a post about how I am or am not going to keep blogging. I am, at least for now. I like to practice writing; it’s good for helping me think.
But what this is, in fact, is a post about considering, about questioning, about stopping, sitting, pausing to hold up the things that the world around us says are good and right and at least recognizing that there’s something being said we can accept or reject. It’s about realizing we are always, in some way, a product of our time—but we determine to what degree. I know the social media articles, even the ones I’ve researched and written, say you need to blog twice a week or be on social media every day, if you want to grow your following or if you want to be a writer who can put food on the table. But we can always question these ideas. We can say no. We can choose a different path.
For me, right now, in this early 2016, I am deep in this sort of considering, about everything, but especially about the time I spend online and especially about the way I write. I hope I keep considering for a while. So far, it’s meant I’m blogging less (often) and more (I hope, meaningfully and thoughtfully, when I do). I am consuming content that stretches my mind, so that, like the chicken who feeds all day to lay one egg, I have something worthwhile to give. I am wrestling with ways to push more towards quality and less towards just more. Whenever I ask myself why it is I keep this space, why it’s valuable to keep coming back here to write and to publish, I think of the ways that thoughtful creating affirms meaning in the world, in spite of the ambiguities that surround us, as Madeleine L’Engle writes. I hope this site is always a place that affirms meaning in the world. I hope it always creates and affirms beauty. I hope it always forces all who are reading it, most of all me, to think.
I wonder, lately, if the fast consumption of our day is decreasing our ability to slow down and ponder. Really, I wonder if it’s decreasing my ability to slow down and ponder. I feel it when I skim an article or rush through a list, this growing impatience, this inability to be still. Maybe that’s why lately I’m hungry for slow blogging, kind of the way I’m hungry for an omelet or at least some toast and fruit when I’ve been having smoothies all day every day for a week. Smoothies are great, but I don’t want only smoothies. Fast is not the only good thing.
If you’re in a similar season of considering, at least as it relates to the Internet world, here are some articles worth your time: “Pleasures and Perils of Online Life” by Samuel James // “Social Media Heart Check” by Kim Cash Tate // “The Untangling” by Laura Boggs // “The Rebirth of Slow Blogging” by Erin Loechner // “Slow Bloggging” by Jodi of Practicing Simplicity // this Pinterest board // on JOMO by Anil Dash // “The Disease of Being Busy” by Omid Safi
Light, Refreshing, Icy Avocado Smoothie
Adapted from Bon Appetit
This recipe springs off Bon Appetit‘s by swapping in honey instead of agave (and more of it, wink, wink), along with slightly altered proportions and the addition of hydrolyzed collagen. If this were more of a nutrition blog, I would spend an entire post talking about the benefits of hydrolyzed collagen, which, in laymen’s terms, is basically gelatin that you can blend in a smoothie without worrying about clumps or chunks. We’ve talked about the benefits of gelatin here before, so we’ll spare you the long explanation and just say: it’s big. In my postpartum life, I’m trying to get as many foods that support bone and joint and overall health in my diet as possible, and this is one. Special thanks to Perfect Supplements for letting us try its grass-fed version, which is now our preferred option; you can also find more info about this product on its site.
1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
2 cups water
1.5 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 1/2 lime)
3 (or more, to taste) tablespoons raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon hydrolyzed collagen*
1 cup ice
In a Vitamix or other high-powered blender, combine flesh of avocado with water, lime juice, honey, vanilla and hydrolyzed collagen, and blend until smooth. Add ice, blend again, until consistency you like, and then taste for sweetness. Add more honey as desired.
Alternate, orange, version: Skip the lime juice and add half an organic orange and a tiny bit of its peel instead. Keep everything else the same. This option is thicker and heavier but still sweet and refreshing.
*We were given a sample of this product to use, and the link above is an affiliate link. All opinions expressed are our own.