It was in Budapest, Hungary where I ate my first sandwich for breakfast. It was not a breakfast sandwich, which is an important distinction. It consisted of ham, cheese and these deliciously sweet white peppers on a fresh bun. At the time I remember it being a paradigm shift. A sandwich for breakfast?! Brilliant! And yet when I returned stateside I carried on with my bowl-of-cereal-ways.
Culture is a beautiful thing. It’s especially beautiful when you can look at and experience many – holding them up side-by-side with that of your own examining the differences and similarities. How better to see your own culture than to look at it within the family of cultures on this earth?
How better to learn the questions you need to ask. Why am I not eating sandwiches for breakfast? Why am I doing all of the things “successful people” do and still feel miserable?
See the thing is that cultures have signposts. Some are innocent. Some wreak havoc. If not checked against personal well-being they have the power to hinder. At twelve years old eating my first sandwich for breakfast in Hungary I didn’t realize I was learning an extremely important lesson – I live in a constructed reality that can be challenged. I can question everything. And from those questions I can build a life that is wholly mine.
I’ve never heard anyone describe it as eloquently as Maria Popova did in her interview with Krista Tippett:
“We orient ourselves in the darkness of the unknown by grasping kind of blindly for familiar points of reference. And we seek to construct out of them a kind of compass, out of similarities and contrasts relative to our familiar world and our existing knowledge. And I think it’s especially true about such nebulous subjects as art or philosophy or really how to think where there is no true north. So we seek tangibles like the market to orient ourselves in this maze of merit and meaning. And it takes something, but I really believe most people, all people have that capacity in them to do what he says, basically — to not orient ourselves to what’s been done, what’s been thought, to the market, to the familiar, and try ever so gently to expand our private locus of the possible.”
Expand the private locus of the possible. I love that. In my own life I’ve found this to be true – whether it’s questioning the space I want to live in and how I want to decorate it, to the clothes I want to wear, to the things I want to read or talk about. I’ve also found that the locus of the possible is an elixir. Each taste of what is possible – a way of life or a choice I make that brings me joy but goes against habit or rule book – keeps me going back for more. To keep seeing what else is possible beyond the familiar sign posts. It’s almost like finding new worlds.
I’m currently reading “The Third Plate” by Dan Barber. In it he says: “In the rush to industrialize farming, we’ve lost the understanding, implicit since the beginning of agriculture, that food is a process, a web of relationships, not an individual ingredient or commodity.” I’ve written about this before. Nutrition is pandora’s box. Throughout time, over and over again we’ve been told to eat and not eat the same exact thing – i.e. eggs. In our uncomfortability with uncertainty and complexity we’ve taken marketed panaceas to our health problems as gospel like certain vitamins or foods. We’ve looked at food (and nature in general) as commodities. Left unquestioned, we miss the world between the signposts. We miss the intricate web, the connections, the causes and effects.
We miss the mystery. And even though we are all wired to love certainty I can’t help but think we would feel lost in a world without mystery.
In the spirit of sandwiches for breakfast, how about some crepes for dinner? These spinach crepes are delicious and filling, not to mention beautiful. They’re a great way to mix up a week of vegetarian meals that all start to look the same.
Spinach Crepes with Herbed Ricotta Filling, adapted from Vegetarian Suppers by Deborah Madison
For the crepes:
1 bunch of spinach well washed
1 1/2 cups of milk
3 tablespoons of melted butter
1 tablespoon of tarragon
1 cup all-purpose flour
For the ricotta filling:
2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
For the tomato sauce:
1 whole onion, sliced thinly
2 tablespoon of tomato paste
1/2 cup of water
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of coriander
splash of fish sauce
red pepper flakes
- Sautee the spinach for a couple of minutes. Add cooked spinach to blender along with the milk, eggs, and butter and pulse a few times. Add the flour and 1 teaspoon of salt and puree until smooth. Set aside while you make the ricotta mixture and tomato sauce.
- Mix all of the ingredients for the ricotta filling together and season to taste with salt.
- Sautee onions in butter for two minutes and add the balance of the sauce ingredients. Sautee for another 8-10 minutes. Salt to taste.
- Heat a little butter in an 8-inch skillet pan. Give the batter a stir and then pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup and swirl it around the pan Cook over medium heat until set and golden on the bottom, 2-3 minutes. Pry up the edges, turn the crepe over with your fingers, and briefly cook the other side until it becomes dry enough to slide in the pan, about 30 seconds.
- Fill crepes with ricotta filling and top with tomato sauce and enjoy.