It’s officially springtime! Even if we get a blizzard in May, (and it's happened!) it’s spring! As each season changes over I always say the new one is my favorite, but spring has a special place in my heart because of the flowers. They are like little pompoms cheering us on for new beginnings and renewals; little flags waving goodbye to winter. More than anything the buds and blooms are signs of promise and potential; little packages bursting with life and opportunity to provide aroma and beauty. I’ve captured some beauties!
I don’t really get spring fever – spring comes when it comes. And I’m not one for spring cleaning — it’s more of a fall overhaul for me. I really want to talk about spring awakenings.
Is the opposite of awake asleep? Or is it unaware? Or a little of both. Awakened doesn't have to be some big realization or epiphany. It can be as simple as waking up from a night's sleep and giving thanks. I'll admit, in fall and winter, it's harder to bound out of bed. The covers are awfully cozy and they win some extra minutes of morning time lounging. Something about spring makes me rise with a little more ease. I'm anxious to look out my window and greet the day. This time of year sharpens my awareness. It’s a subtle thing. In winter I’m all bundled up, scarves and hats and gloves. I hunker down as I trudge to the subway in the snow. I think I connect a little less when it’s cold. Spring comes and I shed the layers, I look up more, I make more eye contact. I’m more aware of my surroundings. I’m awake to the people around me, perhaps more sensitive to their feelings and needs. My goal is for these behaviors to not be a seasonal thing.
Spring awakening can also mean to wake up the physical senses. We see colors more vividly. The grass is greener, the sky is bluer. And the flowers! Nature’s paint brush gone wild. Plus, things smell so fresh. The grass, the rain, the blossoms. We’re also able to feel more because we’re wearing fewer layers. I remember waking up early as a little girl and going outside barefoot in my pajamas just to feel the morning dew on my toes. We can feel the breeze on our arms and legs, a rain shower on our faces, the sun on all the exposed bits that were previously covered in wool. We hear actual birds chirping, which sounds kind of cartoonish. But listen to those sweet tweets! And look at this bird’s nest! It’s the perfect image for spring! Renewal, a promise of potential, new life awakening. I confess I can’t remember whose Instagram or Facebook post I snagged it from, but I look at it all the time and it brings me such joy and inspiration. I had to share it. Happy spring to you, and thank you mystery bird’s nest picture post-er!
My tastebuds wake up in spring too. I love a hearty soup or stew. A winter casserole. Roasted winter squash. Caramelized root vegetables. But as it gets warmer my menus get lighter. Lighter doesn’t mean less flavor, in fact I think my food actually has more vibrancy as the season changes. This soup revives my tastebuds with zingy flavor after all the comfort foods of winter. And it has spring onions in it, which I normally call scallions, but, hey, it’s SPRING!
Miso Soup With Tofu
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 14 ounce block of extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and dried between paper towel,then cubed
- ground black pepper and salt
- 2 quarts vegetable stock
- 4 tablespoons crushed ginger, fresh or from a jar
- 1 lb baby spinach leaves, washed well
- 1 bunch SPRING onions (scallions,) thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons miso (light or dark fermented soybean paste)
- juice of 1 lemon
- cracked red pepper
In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the dried tofu cubes. (If they are still wet, they will sputter, so stand back.) Season with black pepper and salt. Sauté until golden brown on all sides. Remove the tofu from pan with a slotted spoon onto paper towels to absorb any excess oil. As the tofu is cooking, bring the stock to a boil. Remove one cup of stock, pour into a small mixing bowl, and stir in the miso until it dissolves. Set this mixture aside. Add the crushed ginger, scallions, and tofu to the boiling broth in the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in miso slurry and spinach leaves. Remove from heat, add a little lemon juice. Sometimes it can get too sour too fast. Taste for seasoning. Maybe add more lemon. I like to taste salty, spicy, sour equally, but it's aggressive! So adjust the ginger, pepper, miso, or lemon amounts - less or more of whatever ingredient to suit you! I like to sprinkle mine with cracked red pepper before serving.