There’s been a lot of bad news lately.
I know that’s an encouraging way to begin, but really, there’s been a lot of bad news lately. It’s like a relentless wave that keeps pummeling the shore of television screens and text messages. And I’ve found it hard to write anything because everything I’ve started sounds like The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party.
“I have 14 words for you, Seth: Peace, fam-i-ly, sustainable farming, don’t kick pigeons, reading is our future, and minstrel show.”
Ironically, I started this blog in part because I know my own propensity to become a slightly less intense version of this girl—if not always in writing, then almost always in my mind. The terrors and injustices of the world, both for complete strangers and for my friends and neighbors, play in a constant loop—as do all of the ways I could be/should be living in a better way. I’m a special breed of unhinged empathy and overkill responsibility and it makes me a lot of fun to be around.
So I made this space on the internet because I need this space on the internet. I need a constant reminder that I don’t have all the answers and even if I did, none of them involve saving the world by living in The Best Way Possible at all times. I need to continually return to my own slant route—a unique route that embraces noble efforts and also Netflix.
My current slant route is basically a food truck.
I’ve made all of the things, you guys, because comfort food is a real thing. Last Monday night it was these chocolate chip cookies, the kind with brown butter and sea salt and dark chocolate (aka all the best things in life). For dinner one night I made this hasselback butternut squash (the brown butter sage kind) alongside a link of sausage and a buttercrunch lettuce salad covered in thinly sliced radishes—all of which came from Radish and Rye. Then on Saturday morning, to pair with the premiere of The Great British Baking Show, I made creamy steel cut oats cooked with cinnamon and vanilla and topped with crunchy almond butter and honey and warm whole milk.
But the clear winner is this bread. True story: I’ve made it three times this week. Not only is it foolproof, it’s the kind of bread we’re all secretly hoping for—crusty and chewy, filled with air pockets of all sizes, and completely devoid of whole grains. (If you are feeling virtuous, there are several whole grain variations. But maybe just try the original version first.) You mix four basic ingredients in a bowl, let it sit overnight, bake it for about 45 minutes or so the next day, and then take it directly to anyone who needs a little encouragement. (As long as that person does not have Celiac disease. In that case, go with the butternut squash.)
I used to think about food as this part-time obsession.
Something delicious but ultimately frivolous, because cooking for my friends and family is not going to solve any global disasters. It seems like a very small drop in a very large bucket of actual problems.
“Seems like” are the operative words there.
There’s this one part in Finding Dory where Bailey the beluga whale is convinced his sonar is broken and isn’t a real thing he can use. But then, when the situation gets serious, he remembers what he’s capable of and exclaims, “My beautiful gift!” He uses his sonar to help his friends, even though he doubts himself throughout the entire process.
I totally get Bailey. Maybe you do, too.
My special gifts are food and words and showing up for people. These are the things I do best. Except they almost never feel like special gifts. They usually feel like completely regular things that don’t matter in light of all the things that do matter—things like peace, fam.i.ly, and sustainable farming.
How many good, helpful, practical things do we minimize or completely talk ourselves out of because it doesn’t “seem like” or “feel like” they’re that important?
Probably a bunch of them, if we’re anything like Bailey.
So I find myself back in the familiar place of needing to return to my own slant route, the one that is currently a buffet of carbs. It’s a great route. I’m the only one who doubts it.
(And the same thing is probably true for your route, too.)