Bend and stretch
Reach for the stars
Stand on tippie toes
Oh so high
New Year’s Eve brings on a bit of melancholia for me. I understand that I am not alone. Maybe it’s because we have enough awareness that life is a brief proposition and true celebratory benefit would call for deep introspection and conversation. Alas, the current model involves dropping large objects and searching for altered states.
Some of the best New Year’s Eves can be spent with just one, dear one. Multiple memories serve visions of a young, best friend (Dr. Susan Gray). We would commit to a jar of dill pickles while listening to a countdown of the top 100. Introspection and conversation was limited. Intoxicated by sparking apple cider, we would jump up and down; our friendship pledged for another year.
My requirements are still simple when it comes to New Year’s Eve – a big hug and kiss from Dalton sets me straight. We toast the dandy attempts that we’ve made to traverse the challenges of the year before. I like that introspection and conversation are finally part of our tradition. It helps.
With so many years behind me, I’m beginning to understand that all around us are mystical clues, topics that can jump-start a better version of ourselves. I’ve noted that such themes show up when we least expect it. They have grabbed me by my crepey neck to say….have you ever considered this?
This year one such clue presented itself in the Columbia Daily Herald. A small press release from Scarritt Bennett in Nashville, announced a series entitled, Essential Conversations. With limited information, I bit and soon found myself stealing glances at a roomful of strangers while holding a lovely plate of food.
Then Rabbi Rami Shapiro spoke to the purpose of Essential Conversations, a yearlong sequence involving the language of spirituality. He read the perky story about Abraham’s energetic push to serve strangers in Genesis 18.
Afterwards, the group was invited to comment on the first discussion theme – hospitality. Stories unfurled with intelligence and fervor.
Rabbi Rami believes, as I do, in the power of conversation to transform. Such thoughts are not original, but I’ll bet in this era of righteous, an open hearted willingness to pull up to a table of good food and conversation would spark all sort of new insights and in some cases, reconciliation.
God knows that we could use some for the coming year.
Black-eyed peas and barley
A riff of hoppin’ john
8 ounces dried black-eyed peas (fresh when possible)
6 cups of water
¼ cup pearl barley
4 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 smoked ham hock (12 ounces)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 bay leaves’1 ½ teaspoon ground allspice
8 cups Chicken Broth
¼ cup shredded coconut
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup chopped parsley
4 ripe tomatoes, diced when in season or 1 can of diced Muir Glen tomatoes
Pick through the peas, discarding any stones, and rinse.
Place the peas in a bowl, cover with water and soak overnight.
Drain and rinse the peas.
Place the barley in a medium size saucepan and cover with the water.
Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer uncovered until tender but not mushy, 45 minutes.
Drain the barley and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over low heat.
Add the onions and cook until wilted.
Add the peas, ham hock, garlic, bay leaves, allspice, and chicken broth.
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes, occasionally skimming off the foam that rises to the surface.
Add a bit more broth if the peas seem dry.
Remove the ham hock and let stand until cool enough to handle.
Shred any meat from the bones and return it to the peas.
Add the barley and coconut, season with salt and pepper and stir gently to combine.
Before serving, heat through and fold in the lime juice and parsley.
Serve in bowls topped with chopped fresh tomatoes or in the winter add canned tomatoes after adding the barley and coconut.
Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month