Week 45 – Orcas Island

#311 Finnish Salmon Pie

06 November 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

One of my big dreams is to regularly have dinners where people from totally different backgrounds can get together. I want a big table, good conversations, and of course the food needs to be up for the occasion.

Here’s one thing I’ll have to bring to the table- a new puff pastry technique. Most recipes call for folding butter into the dough over and over. A freezer and cheese grater can end up saving so much time.

I put the new puff pastry to the test and looked to Finland for some inspiration. This pie was filled with chunks of cooked salmon, capers, onion, and sauce. It may be one of my favorites from this past year.

#312 Grad School: Four Weeks

07 November 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Another week in the bags and another step closer to the finish line. Just some paperwork and a couple assignments left to go. Then what? We’ll find out soon.

No surprise, this has been a terse week around campus. Some are quick to say that today’s student lives in a cocoon of hyper sensitivity- and at times I get why people would think that. But lots of students feel unsafe- and for good reason. We’ve had random people and even a professor (?!) around in blackface. Ugh! That’s really not okay.

I’m often impatient with the end of grad school but this week I’ll thankful for my role as a TA that has allowed me to speak and share some things I’ve seen and experienced that I find helpful in an unpredictable and tense world. And I love reminding anyone that a lot of times the best thing they can do is focus on what changes there are to be made right in front of them, and to give it everything.

#313 Election 2016

08 November 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

I screwed up my mail-in ballot… I left every single chad hanging (and it was a bubble sheet)! So I swung by the community center to set things right.

If you ask me, a lot of these decisions felt pretty obvious to me. But not everyone else feels the same way, so that’s why we have elections.

Voting is important. It’s very important. It’s one of those things that you totally take for granted if you’ve never experienced what happens in places without free and fair elections. It’s also a privilege that was hard earned.

So yeah, hooray for voting. I’m glad I cast my ballot today. It’s a big decision!

That said, it’s also one of millions of decisions you’ll make that shape the world we live in.

All of the people who have influenced me the most didn’t do it with their voting record. Who is in need of care and attention today that you have a chance to help? Who needs a well timed word of encouragement? Which friend is fundraising for something noble that you should perhaps pay attention to? Some of those decisions will have a much bigger impact than anything you or I bubbled in today, and I think these things are worthy of at least as much deliberation and energy.

#314 It’s Quiet Uptown

09 November 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Perhaps the reason why the election results were so surprising to a lot of people was that we forgot how much of a bubble most of us live in. No matter what results you were hoping for, roughly half the country feels differently.

The type of setting we grow up in, the sort of people we’re around, and all that have a huge impact on what lens through which we see the world. That’s not to say I don’t believe there’s usually a better choice and a worse choice at the end of the day. But it’s another thing to turn my conviction into an assumption that the country falls neatly into two halves of good guys and bad guys.

See, some of the best people I’ve ever met voted for things and people that make absolutely no sense to me. People who taught me everything I know about generosity voted for things I think contribute to inequality. People who taught me how to respect other people voted for candidates with a reputation for crudeness. And if you know enough people, you’ll know someone that this applies to. If not? Well, then that bubble is probably in effect.

One of the best interactions I’ve seen on Facebook was just that. Dad voted red. Daughter voted blue. Daughter was sad, and Dad acknowledged that this was okay. They grew up seeing different things in different times in different places– it was simple, but beautiful.

You don’t have to agree with everything I believe in. I don’t agree with all of your opinions. I’ll probably disagree with a few of them strongly. But I won’t assume the worst of you. I won’t defriend you. We’ll still have a lot to learn from each other.

It’s eerily quiet outside my window. I’m in a young urban area in a very blue state, so of course there’s an atmosphere of disappointment. But it’s also a gorgeous, crisp sunny day in November… and we don’t get too many of those. Disappointing day? Beautiful day? Perhaps both? There’s more than one way to see things and blessed are the eyes that can find both.

#315 Chestnut Bisque

10 November 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Man, chestnuts are the worst! They taste great and can lend themselves to all sorts of recipes in a way that no other nut can. But they are an absolute pain to get out of their shells to work with. Almost at the end of my yearlong cooking challenge and I managed to score my first injury by scoring a fingertip.

Because of that, I will think long and hard about working with chestnuts in the future, but I will say that they made for a pretty unique bisque.

The flavor of this soup was spot on. Rich and creamy and earthy like a good nut-based soup should be. The texture wasn’t as excellent, with the results coming out a little chunkier than I would’ve liked. Still, it made for a good enough and hard earned winter meal.

#316 Anacortes Ferry

11 November 2016 // Anacortes, Washington

Seemed like a good weekend for some perspective on how meager human accomplishments look next to creation, so I hopped on a ferry headed for one place I’ve always wanted to go.

Orcas Island is just a little off the Puget Sound, accessible only by ferry or personal jet, and boasts all of the natural beauty you might expect from a northwestern island. It’s got a pretty tight community of island dwellers too.

Looking forward to getting cozy on this floating patch of dirt that whales seem to love. I feel like I’ll have a good understanding of why after this weekend.

#317 Orcas Island

12 November 2016 // Orcas Island, Washington

“And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should… with all its sham, drudgergy and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

–Max Ehrmann, Disiderata

There’s a lot of stuff to be upset about, and I recognize how legitimate those things are. But I think the sort of rebellion we need is a counterintuitive one. In a contentious, divided world, joy and peace are rebellious. Beauty is subversive when put up next to brutality. I think it’s a better time than ever to be anchored in a joy that can’t be taken, a community of infectious acceptance, and a stubborn memory of the people we were meant to be.

These are crazy days, my friends. But they’re still extremely beautiful ones. To paraphrase Calvin and Hobbes, if we got out to look at the stars more often, we wouldn’t argue about half the stuff that we get worked up over.