Remember when I shared with you about dating “Stefan” the man who was paralyzed in the Let It Glow post? (If you’re new to All Good Things that’s a really good one to go back to.)
Stefan loved to point out the inferiorities of others. It was his own sick game I think, because he himself felt so inferior in his wheelchair. He thrived on being the smartest and most talented person in any room. And he knew his intimidation factor was high. Being smart and talented myself, I challenged him at every turn. I think that’s why we lasted for so long. He’d found a good sparring partner.
I think about one of our conversations nearly every day. Even though this was TWENTY years ago, it has stayed with me. Can you think back to a conversation from long ago that has proved to be one of your greatest teachers?
We met doing a show and we rehearsed in the garment district in an old button factory. About three weeks into knowing one another, Stefan and I were taking a bus together after rehearsal. Full disclosure, I’d never been on a New York City bus until I spent time with a person who used a wheelchair.
This day I knew he was trying to bully me away from him. It was his own self protecting mechanism; behave like a brat and see who sticks around. Stefan was lamenting that people don’t pay attention. That they don’t observe. That they’re self centered. That they don’t look up or out into the world. He truly believed that his disability helped him to tune into things others were too self-absorbed to see. Fair enough.
Like what, Stefan? Give me an example of something you see that I don’t, or that I’m choosing not to see because I’m not paying attention. He thinks. Then he challenges me. “What does the ceiling look like in the lobby of the building where we rehearse?”
Well clearly this gentleman had no clue who he was messing with. I am a keen observer. I have a Spidey sense of seeing things that others would miss. I mean, come on, many things in this blog are places and objects I’ve randomly seen and captured just to share with all of you!
Stefan doesn’t even wait for an answer. He starts going off, “See, you don’t know. You go into this building every day for nearly a month and you’ve never looked up. You take your surroundings for granted. Everybody does. Somebody built that ceiling. Painted it. You should take notice.”
I busted out into a great big smile. I knew I had him. “Ummm. Are you finished? The ceiling is white. There are blue squares with gold lines that are laid out in a Greek key pattern. There are white flowers inside the blue squares.” I went on to describe the elevators, the floor, the bathroom, the fire escapes. I’m not sure if he was more angry or impressed.
That little exchange permanently sharpened my observationist skills. I walk into buildings everyday and almost always look up to see the ceiling. (I’ve even seen a few blue and gold Greek key designs!) I pay attention even more. I look for the unexpected and the hidden. The secrets that someone has artistically shared even if very few people notice. It’s my own personal game of I Spy.
Living in New York it’s a wonder I get anything accomplished. There are a zillion opportunities to find these hidden gems. Sometimes I think they find me.
Some of my favorites to find are these feminine little paper doll collage cutouts by the street artist Libby Schoettle. Her girls go by the name Phoebe. I’ve collected Phoebes in my phone for a few years and I have waited for the perfect time to share them. Aren’t they adorable?
They pop up just when I need a pick-me-up. On street signs, traffic poles, garbage bins, on scaffolding, the sides of buildings, and abandoned telephone booths. Seeing Phoebe is like a wink from the universe.
Not only do I see Phoebe, but Phoebe sees me. It’s kind of a funny little affirmation of my own place in the world. I feel a sense of belonging and grounding. I feel loved. What? By some pixie cutout wheat-pasted into a bunch of graffiti I feel love? Yup. The one true way to feel validation is to feel seen, right? We want to be noticed and recognized, we want to know that our efforts are appreciated, we want to be remembered.
I think this is the lesson and maybe what Stefan clumsily was trying to touch on all those years ago. We all want to be seen. We all want to be loved. I can only imagine that Stefan’s life after his accident left him feeling invisible and unloveable. I’m sure whatever our situation, we all feel that way at times too. So what do we do?
When we keep our eyes open, we are available for what the world has to offer. And for me, when my eyes are open, it unlocks a little latch in my heart, and my heart springs open. We must keep our hearts open too. There’s a lot of love in the world. Love to give and love to receive. Stay open to all of it. The seen and the unseen.
The recipe this week is also seen and unseen. It’s a puff pastry pie - and you know if someone has gone to the trouble to wrap up something in puff pastry, it’s going to be worth cutting into it to see what’s inside. This one is full of mushrooms, farro, cheese and onions. It comes together really easily and you can sub in another vegetable or grain to suit your tastes.
Mushroom and Farro Pie
by Maggie Ruggiero which ran in Gourmet Magazine in 2008
3/4 cup farro or pearl barley
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
9 scallions, finely chopped (1 1/3 cups), divided
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup dry Madeira (preferably Verdelho or Sercial)
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
1 (1-pound) package frozen all-butter puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt
Bring farro, and 3 cups and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil, reduce hea, simmer, uncovered, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain.
Melt butter with oil in over medium-high heat, then cook garlic and half of scallions, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add Madeira and simmer 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and stir in farro, then cool completely.
Stir in ricotta, remaining scallions, and salt and pepper to taste.
If pastry is in 1 piece, cut into 2 equal pieces. Roll out each piece on a lightly floured surface into an 11-inch square. Chill at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°. Spread cooled filling evenly over I piece of pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving a 1-inch border. Brush border with some of egg wash. Invert second square on top, lightly pressing to seal border. Brush top with remaining egg wash, then crimp border with a fork and trim with a pizza wheel or sharp knife.
Cut a few small steam vents in top of pie and decoratively score pastry. Bake until puffed and deep golden brown, about 45 minutes.