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Autumn has come early this year, even deep in the Bluegrass. I’ve found myself at the farmer’s market, lamenting the lack of beefy heirloom tomatoes and thick, dense zucchini. I walk with my big, woven African basket slung over my arm, chatting with the growers themselves and coming up with dinner ideas with their simple, no-nonsense input. These are salt-to-the-earth, dig in the dirt folks. I like to imagine some of these women in their kitchens, cutting vegetables with rust-tinged knives and kneading floured, salted dough on heavy yet worn butcher block, dusty light streaming through their mottled window panes and settling on their muscled, sun-baked shoulders. The shoulders of a woman who understands the deep connection we must have with the earth, respects it, honors it. They’ve worked in their gardens and fields and then have come in to their cool, dank kitchens to create and nourish. Of course, my notion of these women may be entirely off, but I quite like my romantic, conjured visions of them and their lives after they pack up their dusty minivans and trucks with the leftovers of the day at market and drive over the hills and the river to return to their farmhouses, land, and another cycle of harvesting.

I’ve been wanting warmth to reach my bones on some of these cooler days, where even wool socks don’t quite warm my chilled toes and my sweater cannot wrap tightly enough. I’ll slip into the kitchen to put on the kettle for coffee or tea, yet I am craving something far more hearty, something soulful and southern, which is ingrained, my heritage, stemming from the meals prepared in my childhood by my grandmother, who was raised in Eastern Kentucky, poor and barefoot in a dirt-floor cabin. You wouldn’t know that the regal, poised woman that she became was raised in such a way, except for the manner of her cooking. Hams, shucky beans, rustic and robust stews are her language, along with a kitchen full of family and friends to feed. I often attribute my love of a good meal, the creation of it, and the sharing of it to her, and her alone. She taught me to welcome others into my home, and into my kitchen, with love and conversation, although she never meant to teach it, it was just her way and I knew I wanted to be just like her, cooking in my finest whilst barefoot.

I purchased some shittake mushrooms from one of my favorite women at the market, this nervous, yipping sort of woman with muscled arms and legs and a Danish appearance, blonde and strong. She laughs multiple times in our exchange and is patient with our daughter, who is learning to pick and choose produce and pay for it. She sells these shittake mushrooms from a wide, shallow turned wooden bowl, which is aesthetically pleasing and I always enjoy to see it, much like the rest of her display. Her care and attention to detail is sweet, endearing. I buy a quarter pound or a half pound of these mushrooms every week and they’ve seen the likes of homemade Thai and chunky black bean burgers, yet never a soup. I wanted a bit more of the meaty mushroom texture, so I also added Cremini. Our selection is very limited here, and I work with what is available and organic, so while I might pick some more elusive mushroom elsewhere, these choices suit me and this simple, effortless recipe just fine.

I dried some rosemary and sage in August and have been looking for a way to use some of it, yet I knew I wanted to wait until the weather turned chilly. The primary herb in this warming soup is rosemary, but I felt the sage would have a nice complimentary flavor. I added the locally grown potatoes to the mix, wanting moody, earthy tones and flavors to meld. I relaxed blissfully into the warmth while the pattering and chattering of crisped leaves and rushed, cold-front winds came through the open kitchen window.

Recipe and instructions below.

INGREDIENTS

Two cloves garlic, minced

Two small onions, loosely chopped

Olive oil

8-10 small new, blue, or fingerling potatoes

1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced

1/4 lb. shiitake mushrooms, destemmed and sliced

6. c vegetable broth

1 c. almond milk or cream

Stem of rosemary, remove leaves and chop finely or crush (dried or fresh)

Stem of sage remove leaves and chop finely or crush (dried or fresh)

Dried thyme

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in a Dutch oven on the stovetop, add garlic and then onion. Crush herbs with a mortar and pestle or chop finely, add to garlic and onion. Saute until herbs and onion are softened. Add sliced potatoes and shortly after, the vegetable broth and wait for the boil. Add sea salt, black pepper, and thyme. Add mushrooms and milk once the potatoes are semi-softened. Simmer until all vegetables are soft and the aroma fills the air. Serve with a  thick slice of warmed, crusty bread or a dark green salad alongside this soup, along with a robust red or dry white wine.

I have been a vegetarian for nearly nine months now, and at the beginning of extricating myself from a life of eating meat at nearly every meal, or feeling that it was some sort of requirement for a well-rounded plate, I went completely vegan. For several months,  I was incredibly strict on myself. Not only was I not eating meat, I cut out dairy, refined sugars, and gluten. At first, I absolutely loved it. I was in the kitchen, creating incredibly vibrant, colorful, spiced meals. And then slowly but surely, I began to miss having a wedge of hard parmesan in the refrigerator, or a bit of gouda with olives and capers. So after some careful thought about my diet, which is purely for health issues, I decided that I’d allow the occasional dairy back into my diet, yet I try to limit that to quality cheeses, and still use alternative milks for cream, homemade soups and ice cream, even my morning cereal. So when Tiffany Mitchell, of the blog Offbeat + Inspired, posted a recipe for Medjool Date and Vanilla Bean Cafe un Lait de Coco, I knew I had to give it a try. I rushed to Whole Foods and bought some dates…and then didn’t make the creamer as I thought I would – yesterday, in a burst of inspiration, I rushed into my kitchen and put an autumnal spin on the recipe, with ingredients I had on hand. I tend to balk at overly sweet anything, so I knew that the coconut milk wasn’t an option for me – I chose unsweetened almond milk instead.

I had so much fun creating and styling this creamer, so after posting a story on the Steller app, I decided to add a section on the blog for food and drink and post the recipe within this space. I cook often and have been asked in the past to share my recipes, but felt that I shouldn’t, being that I’ve had no formal training and cooking is something I just do, however, perhaps it’s time to share.

My take on this vegan coffee creamer is listed below, both ingredients and directions.

 

SPICED MEDJOOL DATE & VANILLA ALMOND CREAMER

INGREDIENTS

Two Medjool dates, pitted

Splash of pure vanilla extract, organic

1/2 c. raw or minimally processed almond milk

Dash of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and cardamom

DIRECTIONS

Puree in blender or food processor until smooth and frothy. Use right away or chill overnight, covered.

Enjoy in a cup of rich, hot coffee or pour over cold brew and ice.

 

I just poured myself a cup of leftover coffee, meaning I took what has been sitting out since my beautiful Ellen made some early this morning before work, along with a bit I’d shoved into the fridge yesterday, and combined it all in the teapot and reheated it. No wasting here, I buy the good coffee (read: expensive). I am forcing myself to sit down and write, which sometimes seems a little less intimidating if I ease into it in this way, sort of hashing out my current circumstances. I want to write here – post within this space – but I am struggling with it, which, if you’ve read anything I’ve ever written or heard me speak, you probably know that this is a normal thing for me. I am very aware of my size in the universe, amongst all of these other humans and the very grandness of life itself, and I’m in an understanding with my own mediocrity and insignificance. I’m going to take a sip of coffee now, before I continue, because otherwise I will forget and all of that effort to heat the leftover coffee will have been a waste. I’m forever wondering about how my coffee is always so cold so quickly – what am I doing that is more important than sitting down with it? Enjoying and savoring it in its warmth, it’s general character of a thick blanket wrapped around my tongue.

We are doing something here, even if often it doesn’t seem like it. Tonight, when Ellen gets home from work – hopefully with a six-pack of our favorite local wheat because we’re celebrating liberation – we’ll be back in the Airstream. With tin snips. Last night we faced the inevitable that we didn’t want to admit. We’d shoved that damn floorboard up in the front after measuring and remeasuring and drawing three different lines on the board from our template that was off and we were so fucking pissed off and then – it fit perfectly. We sat on a crossbeam, counting down…three two one…slamming our feet into the board with as much synchronicity as we could muster, with her long legs reaching the board faster than my own, and kicked and kicked until that board was in place, the rounded beauty of our Louise girl’s front end looking exactly as it should and I smiled and stood on it and thought about the living that was going to take place on that piece of floor, the place where we’ll come together as a family and share meals, where we will read and sketch and talk and play, and then at night it will be our bed where we whisper things and talk in the way that parents do while our daughter sleeps just past the kitchen, in view of us.

The necessity of the tin snips were realized last night, when we began hacking into Louise’s belly after dark, the light of the porch, our phones, and one work lamp aiding us. We can’t bolt in our new and slightly glorious floor until we can reach the frame from underneath. This realization was upsetting and a bit daunting. I woke up last night sometime, after we’d quit our work and gone in to bed, in a bit of a panic…I’d been dreaming we’d cut into Louise and then the honest realization that we had was altogether overwhelming. We’d planned to replace the belly pan eventually anyway…but it’s just another step, another difficult task, another issue to tackle before we can get to the build. More demolition, more hacking, more of Louise’s history gone. More time spent, to be spent, and another weekend where we felt we’d gotten nowhere.

I am bursting, bursting with words right now but my coffee is making me jittery and my belly is empty and it’s three-thirty-five and I’ve truly had a waste of a day. However, I’m afraid to break from my writing, afraid because I’ve actually sat down and put words to something and what if I don’t finish this and post it?

I’m so ready to go. Yet I wait, Ellen waits, we work, we fight, we make up and make love, we drink, we eat, we shower, we love on our daughter, we keep living, because that’s what you do. You’re supposed to enjoy every second and not only look to the future, but that’s so damn difficult. We’re renovating an Airstream from 1957 and our house is on the market and we’re purging our belongings like crazy and trying to pay down debt because we’re planning for this other life…the one that we want, the one that’s still up in the air, the one that could begin any moment or maybe it won’t for another year or two. It’s hard to figure out this transition, because sometimes I wonder if it’s really a transition at all, or if it’s just another dream that’s dead before it even got started.

I need to go nourish myself, so I am going to go attempt an almond butter/oat/cacao smoothie of sorts and find some socks and moccasins for my chilled toes. Ellen leaves work soon and I can’t wait to see her. I love her deeply and feel so at peace and at home when I wrap myself around her middle, feeling her ribs through her soft shirt.

This beautiful human is Sarah. I absolutely love to photograph her, she’s at ease in front of my camera and moves with such freedom. We met on a late summer evening, at the private farm of a family friend and caught this gorgeous golden light, frolicked with horses (those images to come!), and danced to First Aid Kit (playing from my phone). I wish I could photograph Sarah every single day, she makes me want to pull out my camera. Her impeccable, brazen style alone would be enough, but then she’s got that gorgeous head of hair and wide, brilliant smile. She’s moving to France at the end of October, and I’m going to miss her. I wish I’d gotten to spend more time with her and get to know her better while she was still around Lexington. Bon voyage, Sarah!

I’m not sure how to post within this space. I haven’t written in a month, yet there are multiple unfinished musings, sitting miserably in my drafts folder.  I’ll be tapping out my thoughts when this huge wave of uncertainty slaps against me – hard.

Last summer, I was frolicking in the surge of the Pacific, daring myself to push out further, deeper, where the waves strengthen and engulf. I was bobbing up over them, diving below them, and I came up after one to only be smacked by a wave. I couldn’t see. My eyes had been open. Water filled my nose and mouth. I sputtered and felt disoriented, unsure of how far from the beach I’d come. I lost my footing and my fear of the deep and unknown was exuding itself through my shaking limbs. And just as quickly as I felt all of these things, they vanished as my vision cleared and I tread water. I turned around to see the beach, where Ellen and Adelaide were playing in the sea foam, on the edge of the earth. I felt near and far from them all at once, recognizing the interconnectedness of the shore and sea, yet there I was in the water and there they were, on land, sure-footed. I’ve started a great many things in my life that I’ve never finished. I feel I’m often treading in dark water, confusion and worry filling my heart. I let this fear and resistance overtake me. My arms begin to tire and I float for a minute before slipping away and letting go. I am often accused of being negative when I write like this, but please bear with me as I share my heart. Finding my footing, my voice, developing a brand – these things are difficult for me. Separating myself from those in my life that hold me in a certain space and define me based on my past and their own judgments – someone incapable of change or growth that is true and not fickle – gives way to a feeling that I must be defined and rigid, not fluid. Immediately. There is no room or time for honest development or change, because that would mean that I’m messy. That my life is messy. That I am volatile and flighty. So I remain stuck. Afraid. Desperate to begin yet terrified to not be perfect from the get-go.

However capricious others may think me, I have to remind myself that I know my heart. I am capable of growing and changing. My preference is to succumb to the ebb and flow,  allow myself to be strengthened and expand the depths of my person. I cannot let others, my past, my mistakes – decide or limit me. So I’ll be here, writing. Releasing my work and thoughts to an undefined and public space. Giving myself to it, an honest account. Pushing out into the deep.

~

Listening: The Stray Birds, Gregory Alan Isakov, Gillian Welch, Lucius

Making: Watercolor and ink works

Reading: On Beauty and Being Just/Elaine Scarry

Wishing: For some peace with Adelaide, who is in a difficult phase of childhood

Knowing: the love that Ellen gives is real and pure

Feeling: Casual in Ellen’s jeans, a cutoff tee, and bare feet

Following: Others already on the road – continuing to be inspired by those who’ve gone ahead of us, connecting with them from afar

Understanding: nothing and everything

Loving: Our just-bought Airstream who is desperate for love

Liking: that our house is emptying of things

Opening: boxes of enamelware and copper mugs we ordered for our mobile kitchen

Waiting: for our house to sell

Needing: a new bathing suit for summer

Noticing: the breeze from the storms just north of here

Sharing: my especially vulnerable heart

Quoting: “It is much more difficult to say what ‘beauty’ unattached to any object is.” -Elaine Scarry/’On Beauty and Being Just’

~

  • Jessica

    So happy you’re blogging again, Kate. Your thoughts are insightful, and your writing beautiful.ReplyCancel

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