Lately, my days have become a blur of work, sleep, Grey’s Anatomy and vegetable noodles. My paleo month has instilled me in some excellent healthy habits, so dinner is no longer an assortment of things you can put on toast. My body feels happy, lithe and nourished. Dinners like this 30-minute butternut squash and greens curry have become a welcome friend and ally when the sun sets early and the energy dissipates the moment I board the subway home. But my soul? That’s another matter all together.
At 6:00 a.m., my alarm rings. I hit the snooze button, closing my eyes and losing myself in oblivion for another 10 minutes. And another 10. And another, until I do not feel comfortable hitting that snooze button even one more time.
I drag myself out of bed, my Ugg imitation slippers leaving a trail of dust and cat hair on the floor. I spend a few minutes in the bathroom, staring at my reflection, wondering who that person is that’s looking back at me; when did she become so tired?
I make a smoothie that I sip slowly, as much an attempt to avoid brain freeze as it is to stall time, to gain a few more minutes of solitude, of quiet rumination. I know what lies ahead; I’ll do anything in my power to avoid it. When I can’t ignore the clock anymore, I drag myself into the study, open the lid to my computer, and type that morning’s blog post. I’m already late.
I had intended to have it done days ago; last week, even. I had it all planned out: the post, the photos, the eloquent essay about my sister’s documentary project. And then it was the weekend, and I ran out of time. Between Grey’s Anatomy and work and meal prep and making vegetable noodles, I simply ran out of time – or if to be more honest, the will to live.
And so, the post sits there, half-assedly written on a cold morning, sometime between the smoothie and the frantic run to catch the bus. I look at the blurry photos that I loved only last week. I re-read my words sadly, knowing they just don’t measure up. “I’ll do better next time,” I tell myself.
And then next time, I do it all over again.
Last week, I received some bad news. After weeks where I was feeling like my work was going somewhere, the rug was pulled from under my feet with one sudden phone call. I received a “clarification” that completely changed the way I approach my project, my daily tasks, and life in general. It took the wind out of my sails, and the excitement out of my daily routine. In all truth, there were days last week when I just didn’t see the point in getting out of bed. It was that loss of purpose that hurt the most.
On the bright side, I know that this is just a small setback, and it’s too early to mourn things just yet. It took some days of soul searching and some kind words from co-workers and supervisors, but I feel like I still have hope for things to turn out in the best way possible. My mother’s old adage keeps ringing true in my head: “We get what we need, not what we want, no matter how much we ask for it.” With each unrequited love, dashed home, changed course of action I’ve ever experienced, I know this to be true.
And so, I trudge on. I find purpose in putting together amazing workshops, in pinning recipes, in ordering fabric and playing with composition for photos. I find purpose in spiraling vegetable noodles and making quick weeknight curry. I find purpose in big, bright bowls full of protein, greens and zesty dressings. Even though I don’t get to do everything I want, even thought much is left unaccomplished, and even though plans remain just words on scraps of paper… I find purpose in food.
It was on one of these weeknights, when I spent more time browsing cookbooks and Pinterest than actually prepping ingredients, that this 30-minute squash and greens curry was born. I found a recipe that I liked and then completely changed it, adapting it to what I had in the fridge, and to what I wanted to taste that evening. It’s a simple, comforting meal that provides you with a ton of greens and nutrients, all shrouded in delicious Indian spices.
Once this squash and greens curry was done, I ate a bowlful of it right then, straight out of the pan. I made no excuses or apologies; there was no one there to hear them anyway. I just ate. And it was glorious and sad and tired, quick and nourishing and exactly, precisely, utterly what I needed at that moment in time.
I focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. I tell myself that I’ll get by, that I’ll come out ahead. That we never, ever know what awaits us at the end, and though it may not be what I want, it will be just what I need. With every fiber of my body, I need this to be true.
Will you hope for that with me?
30-minute squash and greens curry
- 2 TBs coconut oil
- 1 TB Indian curry powder of your choice or tandoori masala
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 inch ginger chopped
- 1 small yellow onion minced
- 2-3 cups butternut squash peeled and diced
- 1 bunch Swiss chard kale or collard greens, cut off the stalk, cleaned, and roughly chopped
- 1/2 can coconut milk optional
- Juice of 1/4 of a lemon optional
- salt and pepper to taste
In a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. Add curry powder, garlic and ginger, and toast for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the onion and sauté until it softens and becomes translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the squash and cover with a lid. Continue to cook until sweet squash is tender and some pieces are browned, about 15 minutes (if squash is burning or sticking too much, add 1/4 cup of water). Add the greens and toss over heat just until they are wilted, about five minutes. Add coconut milk if using, stir, and season with salt and pepper (adding coconut milk gives this curry a luxurious, rich feeling, like a good korma, but it's not at all necessary; I had first made it without any additional liquids, and it produced a great dry curry). Taste and correct seasonings as needed. I like to squeeze in the juice of 1/4 of a lemon, though this isn't necessary either.
Serve topped with lots of cilantro, fresh sprouts, and a squeeze of lemon juice.