There are so many unexplainable things happening in the world right now. War. Hunger. Disease. Disastrous weather. Suicide. Those are big broad topics that effect nearly every country of our planet on varying levels. We all have our own personal lenses, and you can zoom in on specifics; Ferguson, Missouri. Staten Island, New York. Horrible events that just don’t make sense. Here are some examples of things that are heavy on my heart recently; a family still reeling from an unexplained death of their mother/daughter/sister in Chicago. A father of 3 children (all under the age of 2 years old!) losing his partner unexpectedly and raising these precious babies all alone in Brooklyn. And then just yesterday a dear friend in Los Angeles died leaving me and my friends with heavy sadness and infinite loss. I’m sure you all have your stories too.
So what do we do? How do we attempt to heal? We protest, we campaign to make a difference, we mourn and pray, we donate. We cry and scream in disbelief and heartache.
What am I doing? I am putting up my Christmas tree and wrapping presents, lighting candles, playing holiday music, going to celebrations, the whole whirlwind that is December! I’m not skipping any of it. And it is not to ignore or mask the tragedy of what is happening around me. I am not obliviously spreading holiday cheer and avoiding the issues in my communities. I am saying, “Joy to the World!” at a time our world needs more joy than ever. For me, being kind and generous, and spending these holidays with family and friends is the only option.
If we are troubled by the unexplainable horrific things, we need to stop and take notice of the beautiful miraculous things that are just as unexplainable. Babies entering the world after 10 months in the belly of a woman. Rainbows. Successful surgeries. Patients winning battles over cancer. Safe flights. Breathing. Heart beats. Space travel. The list is endless. The unexplained good by no means cancels out the unexplained bad, but by enjoying the gifts of being a human being, we also must endure the tragedies of that same existence. That contrast is what makes the world go round. And that is good news! There is hope in those opposites. If we experience great loss it means we had great love for a person and are capable of great love. If we are sick, it means that there is health to strive for and healing to welcome. If we experience failure, it means we have known success. If we are in a war, it means we are arguing over what was once a peaceful time and we are fighting for that time again. And when someone dies it means they LIVED.
I’ve really gotten some clarity about life recently. Perhaps it’s simple, but in a seemingly chaos filled world, I find simplicity comforting. Life can be turbulant. It can bring waves of uncertainty and disbelief. We are presented with 2 fantastic opportunities. Really, only 2. We can build life rafts for those that are struggling or hang on to the rafts that have been built for us when we are in a struggle of our own. That’s it. Build or hang on. No strings, no guilt, no obligation.
In this life raft scenario, we give refuge and assistance or we receive those things at a time when we are not able to find those things for ourselves. We are constantly creating life rafts in our relationships, our art, our jobs, for our children, etc. Any opportunity to create grace and ease and offer peace to someone else is an opportunity not to be missed. In times of uncertainty it is important to cling to the familiar and keep up the rituals and routines. So the tree, lights, carols, presents, spiritual services - those are the things to which I’m clinging, they are part of my life raft in this very unexplainable time. And I will help build a life raft for all of you, and everyone else on the planet I can reach, by bringing joy to the world. I’ll keep writing my blog, sharing ideas about food, telling stories, singing songs and elevating my communities in every way I can.
For those of you going through darkness, hang on. We’ve got you. Let yourself be supported. Let those around you love and comfort you. This time isn’t going to last forever and you will be floating securely again helping a neighbor and providing strength for your familiy and friends. The turbulant waters will eventually calm and you will see the light again.
This recipe is so simple. Baby octopus are like little ballerinas of the sea. So graceful looking, light and sweet. The red tomatoes, green broccoli rabe, and white beans are so perfectly Christmas hued, I couldn’t resist. If you can’t find octopus, sub in a can of tuna. I’m not kidding. It will be tasty, upscale, and affordable all at the same time. No broccoli rabe? Use broccoli. And the beans - they come from a can. Simple, yet festive. Exactly what the world needs right now.
White Beans With Baby Octopus
- 10 baby octopus
- 2 cans drained and rinsed cannelini beans
- 1 small bunch broccoli rabe, roughly chopped or one head of broccoli, chopped
- 1/2 cup roasted tomatoes**
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- juice of one lemon
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- salt, pepper, and red chili flakes to taste
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over a medium heat.
- Dry baby octopus with a paper towel.
- Place the baby octopus in the pan and sear them for about 2 minutes, turn them over and cook for another couple of minutes until they are lightly seared. (The legs will curl up, press the heads down with a spatula to keep them close to the surface of the pan.)
- Be careful to drain off any water so that they octopus has an opportunity to sear, as opposed to boil or steam in their own juices.
- When the octopus is done, remove them from the pan and set aside.
- In salted boiling water, blanche the broccoli rabe for one minute, drain.
- Add the remaining olive oil and the garlic to the pan and saute for 20 seconds. Add the broccoli rabe to the pan, it will sputter and sizzle because it's wet. Cover for a minute so you don't get splattered. Sautee for 5 minutes, stirring so the garlic doesn't burn.
- Add the drained and rinsed beans.
- Add the tomatoes.**
- Add the octopus, sqeeze the lemon, and season generously.
**If there is an olive/pickle section near your deli counter where you serve yourself, they might just have oven roasted tomatoes in oil. They taste like candy! These are one of my favorite short cuts! If these little guys are not to be found. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees, toss a pint of cherry or grape tomatoes in olive oil and pour onto a sheet pan. Roast in the oven until they start to split and char about 10 minutes. Shake the pan after 5 minutes to redistribute them on the pan.