Querencia

Photo by Daniel Bask

I accidentally arrived an hour early to yoga this morning. My mind was whispering to me softly, “allow us this time to sit and be present, we really need it“. My meditation practice had been sporadic, and it was hard to start out. My mind was overbearing, latching on to each thought and getting toted away by the breeze.

I finally settled into my breath, and sank into a state so relaxed my body barely needed oxygen. My breath was so slow it felt as if it could sustain itself on nothing. I was so far inside myself, or rather, filling my whole body and beyond. It was wonderful to sense that place, that space of peace and acceptance within.

When I got lost aboard a runaway thought train, I would gently detach. At one point a voice spoke inside that simply said, “it’s okay, I accept you“, in a tone so much more gentle and loving than that in which it usually speaks. It made me gloriously sad that it wasn’t like that more often, and determined to give it the chance to emerge continuously.

There’s a spanish word, querencia, which refers to a place where one feels safe and at home. It’s used in bullfighting to describe the area of the ring where the bull goes to recoup, where he feels strongest. Barry Lopez describes it as “a place on the ground where one feels secure, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn—a place in which we know exactly who we are—the place from which we speak our deepest beliefs”. 

All too often we wrap layers around ourselves as a shield against the harsh realities we may encounter, and we hide our spirits from ourselves along the way. This leaves only the hope that one day, the best of who we are will manage to slice through and say to us tenderly, all the strength that you need is inside you, and it’s been here all along.  Inside us all we have a querencia, a place where we can repair ourselves and find the hope and strength to carry us nobly through life.

A favorite poem, to close.

“Graduation”

He told us, with the years, you will come
to love the world. 

And we sat there with our souls in our laps, 
and comforted them.

~Dorothea Tanning

Spring Is Here!

 

Image

I just picked up this wonderful weekday produce box from my local market (the wonderful Hollygrove), and man does it look good! It took a lot of effort not to devour a pint of strawberries before the picture. The variety from week to week is great, and learning how to cook with things I would never have purchased otherwise is half the fun. I’ve learned to make mustard greens well enough so other people will eat them, but still can’t bring myself to enjoy them… Komatsuna on the other hand, stole my heart from the first bite; spicy arugala + delicate spinach?? Simply amazing!

Last week I cooked my beets, greens and all, into a borscht-y turnip-y pureed soup which was quite delicious. I’m thinking of a thinly sliced raw beet salad for this week’s courageous looking bunch, perhaps mixed in with some of that sprightly spinach. Who would thought these adjectives would be used to describe a bunch of veggies. I think they deserve it though! They survived the caterpillar onslaught New Orleans dealt out, and that’s nothing to scoff at.

Image

This breakfast marked the end of the citrus season, a very sad time for moi. That blood orange was bittersweet, although my fresh homemade farmers cheese did something to cheer me up. But it’s on to the next season! Loquats anyone?? They grow rampant throughout the neighborhoods here, and I’ve stretched out a good few shirts during impromptu gatherings.

May everyone have fresh local produce to enjoy! I hope whatever deviant has been nibbling off the beet tops in our backyard garden is properly savoring them at least 🙂

The Staples: Daily Bread

Image

It all started with a starter. Her name was Adelaide, and she produced many delicious sourdough pancakes as well as a few semi-dense loaves in her day. Sadly, she perished in the depths of my parents’ fridge, never to be revived again. I thought my breadmaking days would be over forever. Then, Jim Lahey came along with a no-knead recipe that REVOLUTIONIZED HOME BREAD MAKING! Of course I’m talking about this puppy right here, which is truly deserving of those capital letters. Fast forward two years and here I am, utterly spoiled with the superiority of homemade bread… I’ve overfloured it and underwatered it, stuffed it chock full of fruit and nuts and mixed in spices galore, prodded cheese into its center and flattened it into foccacia, and it has never once complained. Like that foolproof cake recipe mama always makes, it seems to taste good no matter what you do (or or don’t do) to it.

For anyone who thinks bread is too difficult or time consuming, go forth and mess around with this recipe! All you need is a few basic baking ingredients and a big ole heavy pot for the oven (my darling pot is the orange one pictured below).

IMG_8477

A few months ago, I started to get an itch. It was the kind of itch that lets you know that you’ve gotten too comfortable, and that something needs to be changed up. It had become too easy, this everyday loaf. So I set forth with my flour, water, pineapple juice, and a small jar, to craft a new baby sourdough starter from scratch. There was anxiety, trepidation, bated breath, and wrinkled noses… A few casualties ensued; a broken wooden mixing spoon, jettisoned commercial yeast, a few flat chewy loaves. But lo and behold, s/he (still deciding on a name, recommendations welcome) pulled through, and I brought a bubbling beautiful new baby starter into this dangerous world! The rise of her loaves is nothing to be scoffed at, and although she’s kept me up for some late night feedings, she is remarkably well behaved.

The modified recipe I now use to make the same bread is just adjusted by the hydration of the starter. Typically, you want to feed it the equal amounts water and flour by weight, but since I have yet to invest in a kitchen scale, I’ve settled into a feeding ratio of 1/2 cup flour to 1/4 cup (filtered, room temperature) water. So, If I were to use 3/4 cup of starter instead of yeast in a recipe, I would simply reduce the amount of flour called for by 1/2 a cup, and reduce the water by 1/4 of a cup.

Since there can be so much variation in the consistency of the starter (referred to as “percent hydration”), make sure you make these adjustments for replacing commercial yeast with starter in a recipe. If you are using a recipe already calling for starter, make sure the hydration of your starter is the same as what they’re recommending for the recipe. Starters can range from a tougher dough to a pourable goo, so it can make a big difference.

Speaking of which, it’s time to feed my starter 🙂

ta ta for now,

Sofia-Jeanne