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My village people can’t take it anymore.  They have set fire to the village in protest. Six months without resolutions is too many.  Abort Mission!  My village people are not ready for the laissez-faire approach to life. (Click HERE for more village people context if you missed the first post).

There is a time and a place for surrendering to what is and for accepting life as it comes.  And then there are the rest of the times and places, during which I need exorbitant details to obsessively micromanage in order to keep myself occupied and entertained.  I need goals and measurement and progress – or at least the illusion thereof.

These realizations hit me last week as I was reading Gretchen Rubin’s
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.   This book was an emergency, impulse vacation purchase.  Having abandoned every book I had packed, I had to have something to read to tide me over until I could get home. Rubin’s memoir is peppered with tidbits on the art and science of happiness, combined with her meticulous list of a year’s worth of resolutions to guide her in the practice of achieving joy.  Her resolutions are organized by month, category, and sub-category, all of which are rigorously tracked.  The book annoyed me to no end!  It’s no fault of the author.  I claim full responsibility for the baggage I took with me inside the cover.  I saw my own annoying OCD resolution-tracking self on every page and it made me itchy and irritated with the fact I didn’t have a single resolution to track this year.

So here I am in July making my New Years Resolutions. My first resolution for 2015 is:

1. Cook something fabulous and complicated every other week.

I don’t cook.  I am plagued by mageirocophobia, or the fear of cooking. You see, I have this history of setting devastating kitchen fires. Yes, that’s plural, as in fires$$ of the devastating-call-the-fire-department-and-the-contractor-and-the-insurance-company sort. A certain member of the family gave me the nickname “Housefries” once he started talking to me again, which was weeks after I burned down his kitchen and half the family’s wardrobe. The wardrobe aspect of this story needs explaining. What happened is, in the heat of the moment (literally) I tried putting out the kitchen blaze by smothering it with the contents of a nearby laundry basket full of clothes. As you might imagine, this only succeeded in making it all much, much worse. Go figure.  On the flip side, meatloaf flambe with a side of smoked socks should get some points for creative culinary pairings.  I wish that had been an isolated incident. My father may still bear the scars from another of my kitchen fires.  And then there was that unfortunate Christmas morning we were forced to use a fire extinguisher we had JUST received as a gift.  Even the fact that people give me fire extinguishers as a non-ironic Christmas gift should tell you something about the magnitude of the problem.

Despite my checkered and charred past, I am increasingly drawn to the kitchen and the alchemy of cooking. I am inspired partly by the thriving herb and berry garden I’ve planted that needs something to do besides look pretty. Plus there are all these fabulous cooking blogs I read and drool over, like Peri’s Spice Ladle  and Once Upon a Chef.

Yesterday I kicked off my resolutions by making vegetarian lasagna with fresh basil from the garden.  I picked mint to make Strawberry and Orange Salad with Citrus Syrup and Fresh Mint, which I polished off this morning for breakfast.  There was a lot of strawberry and orange juice leftover so I poured it in a popsicle mold for later. Knowing this popsicle awaits in the freezer has made me happy all day.  It’s the little things.

One of my subgoals is to finally do something with the crabapples.  We have an abundance of crabapple trees and each year I think something should be done with them, but I never manage to figure out what.  A friend popped over last week randomly and told me about her grandmother’s recipe for candied crab apples. This year it’s on! I have my recipe picked out for Spiced Crab Apples based on her gram’s recipe.

Another sub-goal related to food is to stop eating after 7:30 p.m. We’ve gotten into the habit of eating dinner between 8:00-10:00 p.m., which is ridiculous and unhealthy.  Part of the problem is I teach yoga classes two evenings a week, and I don’t want to eat right before them and I’ve been too busy to catch a decent lunch, so by the time I’m done with class it’s late and I’m famished, so I eat like a Viking (well, a vegetarian Viking) then I crash. This must change.  I need to make time to  eat a big late lunch and then be done with it.

In conjunction with the cooking thing, I also want to have people over more for dinner.  I’m intrigued by the idea of having a dinner party with mixed and matched guests. Just the thought scares me.  I have no idea how to do this sort of thing. People of the Web: who out there has experience with dinner parties? Can you give suggestions? Themes? Ideas? Testimonials?

Arugula, freshly picked

Arugula, freshly picked

I’m the black sheep vegetarian in a family of meat eaters. It’s a hard job, but somebody has to do it.

This is not a brand new thing.  It’s been two years since I converted. Still, when I get invitations to family functions they say things like this:

We’re having a party. I know you don’t eat x or y…or z — good lord aren’t you starving yet?? Well, you can come anyway.

I swear I am not trying to wreck havoc on people’s dinner parties (unlike The Good Greatsby, whose humorous post can be found HERE). I don’t mean to be difficult, but I might be a little complicated. The vegetarian thing is just what makes sense in my heart and in my head.  I’ve tried to explain it all, but I obviously haven’t really done a good job of it because just a week ago I was asked (again):

So…I still don’t understand…are you doing this for religious reasons or what?

And then there was there was the following exchange with the Resident Teaologist, who when preparing lunch couldn’t find what she needed:

Resident Teaologist: You said you had arugula, so I didn’t get any at the store, but I don’t see any in the fridge…

Me: That’s because it’s out in the yard.

Resident Teaologist:….oh.

So we go out to the yard to pick the arugula.  She stares at it and says,

It’s so weird that you are about to eat something that was just growing in your ground.

I had to giggle. That this bewilders others bewilders me.  How did we ever get so far removed from our food? And what have we lost as a result of this distance?  And what exactly have we gained?

Once plants and animals were raised together on the same farm — which therefore neither produced unmanageable surpluses of manure, to be wasted and to pollute the water supply, nor depended on such quantities of commercial fertilizer. The genius of American farm experts is very well demonstrated here: they can take a solution and divide it neatly into two problems.

–Wendell Berry

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