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Two days ago on our morning walk, Tim and I put on sweatshirts. Yesterday, I pulled out my boots for the first time since May. Today, the window’s open in the bathroom, and even from the next room over, I can smell the fresh air and feel a cool breeze coming in (the high today in Nashville was 72 degrees). What’s more, down the hall and in the kitchen, the oven is on, and I have a pot filled with root vegetables boiling on the stove. Fall is here, officially and obviously, and I’ve been dressing, eating and, what I’m trying to say, I guess, is enjoying this new season, even when it means summer’s gone.
But before we get too deep in changing leaves, could I get one last hurrah for summer? I hate to say it as a lifelong October lover, but sometimes I’m nostalgic for the season that ends (besides winter). And while I was all set to pack away this late summer squash recipe for next year, our Monday CSA pickup brought a few more of the yellow squash we’ve been seeing the last few weeks. So I thought maybe you wouldn’t mind if I slipped this late summer squash quinoa dish in? You could, of course, swap out the yellow squash with a nice winter one, cubed and roasted with oil until it’s caramelized. You could, also, decide to go elsewhere for a recipe featuring pumpkin or apples. I’ll understand.
For now, here’s a quinoa dish we enjoyed before the temperatures dropped and the days shortened. It’s a reminder of the beauty that was, even as we walk forward into the beauty that is and the kind that is to come.
It doesn’t matter if I’m with you in the kitchen making quinoa or talking to you through the lens of a computer screen, telling you I’m having a hard time making friends is one of the fastest ways I know to bring back all the emotions of second grade P.E. class. It’s humiliating—kind of like announcing you’re the kid no one wants to sit next to on the bus or that the guy who’s taking you to dinner is only doing it because his mom knows your mom. Over and over again the last few days, when this topic has come up in conversation with acquaintances and friends, I’ve been shocked at how humbled I’ve been to simply state the truth, how much I’ve wanted to color it with less emotion and try to hide the fact that I crave deep relationships. I feel so embarrassed to say it, like I’m asking you to pity me and tell me I’m wonderful and invite me to your dinner party, but I force myself to do it anyway because it’s true and I want to say what’s true, and also, I want to fight the urge to only tell you what I think you’ll think sounds good. I’m too good at that already.
Sometimes when Tim and I are cooking together, I’ll ask him how he wants the vegetables chopped, and he’ll say fine and minced, and he’ll ask me how I want the table set, and I’ll think, I wonder what he would want me to say? before I answer him. I don’t always do this, mostly because he’s helped me see how unhelpful it can be, but sometimes I still do because it’s a deep habit, one so ingrained in me that I fall back on it without meaning to.
I grew up what some people might call a people pleaser. I studied what the crowd around me liked and wanted, and I worked very hard to make myself fit their desires. I didn’t get in trouble, I said kind things, I learned to ask you more about your life than I’d say about mine—constantly working to gain your approval, whomever you were, so that you would like me, so that you would say something that would make me feel OK inside.
In many different types of society, people pleasers hide really well. They’re not the ones parents worry about or the ones dealing with failure—they’re usually, on the outside at least, fully functional, engaging, pleasant people to be around, successful in work and at home and in churches. But the thing is, trying to please everyone else is a mask. Keeping it up isn’t just impossible; it’s exhausting. And sooner or later, you start to see that it’s nuts.
Early when Tim and I were dating, we talked about this and about how I’d spent a lot of my life thus far trying to be exactly what I thought people wanted me to be. I didn’t know how to say no without guilt or how to willingly disappoint someone without anxiety, and so I started to ask myself why. Maybe it was because I was afraid of loneliness? Maybe because I liked the illusion of control? But mostly, I think it was this: maybe I was trying to fill my soul with their acceptance.
I recently finished the book “Grace for the Good Girl,” written by Emily P. Freeman who blogs at Chatting at the Sky. It it, she says this:
Life behind a mask may feel right and may even be fun for a short time. After a while, though, recycled air becomes stale and the effort it takes to continue trying to be someone you aren’t becomes a burden rather than a game. Only in returning home, taking off the mask, and being you again will you find relief.
The lie of seeking people’s approval is that it will actually satisfy me, that it will actually fill me up. And I am repeatedly, regularly capable of hiding who I really am because I think that will give me what I think I need: your acceptance—even here on this blog when I talk about recipes for cauliflower rice or grass-fed pot roast or raw brownies or sauteed Brussels sprouts. There’s something really, really appealing about feeling well-thought-of or appreciated or valued.
And so part of learning, slowly learning, to stop hiding yourself means learning instead to do the opposite: to speak the truth and to be embarrassed and to, when you boast, boast of your weakness (or in the One who has none). Otherwise, it’s a treadmill that never ends and worse, it’s impossible to ever lose sight of yourself enough to do what really does satisfy: to taste and to give real love.
This past Saturday was my favorite kind of day: we had no plans, no place we had to be, no major to-do lists—and, at least for someone with my personality and temperament, I am finding days like this are crucial. Spending 24 hours at a leisurely pace, the kind where you stroll around the Franklin farmers market, fall asleep for two hours on the sofa, hold your husband’s hand as you walk up and down the block before the sun sets is just the ticket to helping yourself slow down, be still and feel thankful. Seriously, this Saturday was so good, it was almost like being in Hawaii again. Oh and also, there were these quinoa black bean burgers.
I got the idea to make black bean burgers last week and, after pinning five or six recipes that caught my eye, I put together a version that combined their ideas and added some of my own. Using bulk-bin organic beans and quinoa, I had to soak them the night before, but once that step was taken care of, the process was pretty easy: cook the beans, cook the quinoa, saute a heap of veggies and spices; combine everything in a food processor; form into patties; saute or bake and bam! I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you: we loved these quinoa black bean burgers.
Price-wise, you can’t beat them: for under $7, you get eight homemade patties, some of which can easily be frozen for later. Nutrition-wise, they’re incredible: filled with the whole-foods protein and nutrients of beans, quinoa, veggies and spices. And taste-wise: I seriously can’t believe non-meat burgers can pack so much savory flavor into every bite. They’re even wonderful on their own, sans bun or toppings, eaten like little quinoa black bean cakes, reminiscent of fried green tomatoes or potato pancakes in their crispy exterior and hot, soft insides.
I wonder if it will be strange to tell you that what I think most when I look back at these pictures and this recipe is that I’m thankful? Thankful that these burgers came on a much-needed day of rest wherein I sat still long enough to notice my good gifts—gifts like longer daylight in the month of March, the kind of daylight that expands my days and makes it easier to work or cook or, as on Saturday, go for long strolls in the neighborhood; gifts like my kind and thoughtful husband who goes on those walks with me, who works alongside me, who talks to me about every single thing on my mind and who surprises me with tangible demonstrations of love like homemade chocolate souffles before we go to bed on Saturday night (!).
Because the fact is, I am too quick to forget how much I need to rest. Too quick to think I don’t have time for a free day with nothing planned. Too quick to try and squeeze in more work hours, knock out another project, feel the weight of responsibilities no one has mounted on my shoulders but me.
And so, because they came on the restful, peaceful Saturday that I didn’t know how much I needed, because they helped me stop to savor the good, because they represent the joy of trying a new recipe with no time constraints and the pleasure of sitting down to eat with the person you share life with every day, I love these quinoa black bean burgers even more than how good they tasted and more than the migraine-preventing, protein-packed power of quinoa or the digestion-benefiting, blood-sugar-regulating abilities of black beans.
The day after I made them, I read Matthew 11:28, where Jesus says to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I read that and thought, I am so glad He does.
May you enjoy these–and rest!–as we did, sometime very soon.
Earlier this year, I was innocently wandering through the grocery store, filling up my cart, when I spotted a turquoise box with a picture of what looked like a rice pilaf next to a filet of grilled salmon, the words “gluten-free,” “cooks in 10 to 15 minutes” and “organic” staring me in the face. I’d heard of quinoa before, never tried it, and the whole idea intrigued me.