Baby steps. Dance steps. Steps of service. Step right up! One step at a time. Watch your step. Take things step by step...
The home where I was born, the same Missouri home my parents live in today, is one story. There's not even a basement. I love this house so much, but going to the homes of friends and relatives with two and even three story houses held the promise of adventure. More dark places to hide when playing and more quiet corners to read my books. (And I secretly thought they were wealthier for having a taller house, never mind that our one story sprawls out with massive rooms on acres of land...)
I have a slight obsession with stairwells. There is romance to them, a story. I want to know where they go or from where they came. As a kid I would entertain myself for hours with the stairway drawings of M.C. Escher. He was the Dutch master illusionist who drew never-ending staircases and patterns that seemingly went nowhere or everywhere! It's a funny preoccupation I have with stairs because I also have a slight phobia of falling down on a staircase and breaking a bone.
Because of this little fear, I hold on to every hand rail. I love a printed warning to 'watch my step.' It's like the universe knows my fear and is reminding me to step with care. So I take the time to go slowly, to place my feet, literally watching my steps. I'm not a bounder or one who takes two steps at a time. I practice patience and presence when I'm making an ascent or descent. (I wish I had that practice for all the time I'm not taking steps on stairs...)
Oprah has a saying, "What are your next right steps?" No offense to Oprah, but how do we KNOW we're going in the correct direction to even clarify if we are taking a right or wrong step? I have a dear friend making some big decisions in her life and taking huge and admirable steps. She's not sure if the actions she's taking are the right steps. I told her to think about what she wants. To be very clear of the intended outcome. When the goal is unshakeable, I think it becomes clear if our steps are taking us closer to what we want or if they are carrying us further away from the goal.
Every step, even a tentative one, counts. - Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I climb a lot of stairs in New York City, mostly in the subway. There is an escalator that I ride nearly every day and I actually bless it and say thank you every time I get on it. It makes my life easier in the brief time I stand and it advances me to the next platform. When I stop and think about it, the stairs and escalators are like playing a game of Chutes and Ladders. It's either a tedious climb or a 'fast track' with little effort. Either way, we are bridging ourselves from one place to another.
Aside from cooking, I also work as a voice over artist. I had a job narrating children's textbooks for an educational company this week. It's so interesting how learning has evolved. People have a greater chance at success with all of the new ways information is available these days. One of the lessons I was reading was for second graders, explaining how to follow steps in a recipe. Perfect for me, right? The book described how some steps in cooking are irreversible. Once you crack an egg, there is no turning around and trying to get it back in its shell. An irreversible step. But if you melt butter or chocolate in error, this is a reversible step because it can turn back into a solid state once it cools. Ooh, not just in cooking, this is a lesson for life! Are my steps or choices of action reversible or locked in? Can I retrace my steps and make a different choice?
“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”
— Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Everyday it seems like society is making irreversible choices. And as I read the news I feel like we're all locked into an Escher painting. Climbing and climbing and not really getting anywhere. Or getting deeper and deeper into the puzzle with no visible escape. It's frustrating, scary, disheartening. I have no solution or profound observation. I think the only thing in my control is to continue taking mindful steps, to hold the handrail, to make room for my neighbors as we travel from our individual points of A and B, and to move up, down, back or forth deliberately. Keeping my goals and intended destinations at the front of my mind and heart.
I came across this step recently from the street to the curb and the sticker art delighted me. It was raining, I was carrying loads of groceries, blocks from a subway with no cabs in sight. I was this close to being defeated. These words gave me encouragement to keep going. The bags I was carrying became lighter and the rain became a cleansing companion on my path. I offer these words to you as you journey onward during these troubling times. I offer them especially to my friend making her big decisions. "You're doing great!"
This recipe is from one of my culinary heroes, Heidi Swanson. Heidi made this so easy, you put everything in a food processor or crush it by hand with a mortar and pestle. There are barely any steps! You can take your saved time to chop and sauté vegetables or grill tofu or chicken to mix with the curry paste. I served mine with coconut rice and topped it with toasted cashews and scallions..
Lemongrass Turmeric Curry Paste
4 lemongrass stalks, trimmed, tender center part only
6 medium garlic cloves, peeled
6 medium shallots, peeled
3 medium serrano chiles, stemmed
3-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/4 cup good extra-virgin coconut, sunflower or olive oil
a drizzle of lime oil or zest of one lime, optional
If you're making the curry paste in a mortar and pestle, start by smashing the lemongrass, and add each ingredient from there. If you're using a food processor or blender, combine the lemongrass, garlic, shallots, chiles, ginger, cumin, and turmeric, and pulse until the ingredients start to come together. You can add the oil at this point, and blend again. Stir in the lime oil or zest. The paste will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. Freeze any paste you wont use for future use.
Makes about 1 cup.
Prep time: 5 min