I am reading a fabulous book right now entitled Clutter Busting; Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back by Brooks Palmer. As almost anyone who knows me knows, I am a self-proclaimed minimalist in training. I love de-cluttering books. Every one that I read inspires me to look at another area of my home or life and ask the hard questions; Is this working? Why do I do something this way or that? Do I still use this? Have I moved past that?
Palmer writes “If you own something that you don‘t use and can‘t see yourself using, but you don‘t want to let go of it…You are under the influence of the powerful emotional memories your mind associates with the thing. The item is just a thing. It‘s neutral. There may be hundreds of thousands of this particular thing made by people… These people came to work every day and made this same exact thing in a robotic state of mind. Every one of these hundreds of thousands of the thing is exactly the same. But you‘ve embellished the thing through your memories and your attachment.” Isn’t that interesting?
Having personally tossed or donated hundred of “things” since the first steps of my journey in 2000, my mind went to cookbooks. Just about everyone I know has more cookbooks than they’ll ever have time for but cookbooks make us feel a certain way, don’t they? There’s a lot tied up in a cookbook. We create an image of who we should be, who we’re going to be ‘some day’ or maybe it invokes a memory of our childhood or a special family member.
I decided to dive in to mine and am happy to announce I now have only two cookbooks and my husband kept a bread book that he’s really fond of. He loves to make bread and he’s exceptionally good at it. The rest of the books, I copied only the recipes I’ve ever made that I liked out of each book and donated the lot of them to the Salvation Army. It took a while but now, when I go to the wood recipe box that my husband made for me (he’s good at a lot of things), it’s full of recipes I know I’m going to enjoy making and eating. I do not miss the mental drain of all those promises I’ve made to myself over the years and don’t have the time to keep. If you need a push, I’m giving you permission. Let go of who you think you should be or who someone else has told you to be and give yourself permission to be the person who knows how to make 20 recipes well instead of having 2,000 hanging over your head.
Okay, there is a recipe in all of this. It’s a Couscous Salad that has a short story to go with it. This recipe calls for fresh mint and if my closest friend is reading this, she knows first hand that I do not care for mint. On one of our many trips together, her husband, herself, my husband and I found ourselves in South Beach Miami on our way to Key West. We decided one of us would order a Mojito since we’d never had one. This was back in 2003 before the Mojito craze hit the West Coast. It was absolutely nasty…to all four of us and none of us have taken a sip of one since. Hey, we’re talking South Beach, Miami, Florida. It just doesn’t get much more authentic than that for a Mojito. So, we’re thinking it was the mint. Not one of my favorite herbs for anything other than gum. Leave out the mint in this recipe if you feel the same way. I do put it in just to remind me of our ‘Miami moment‘. See, memories really are associated with “things”.
3 Tbsp olive oil
5 scallions, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ C vegetable stock
1 C couscous
2 tomatoes, peeled & chopped *I do not peel the tomatoes
¼ C chopped fresh parsley
¼ C chopped fresh mint
1 fresh green chile, seeded & finely chopped
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Toasted pine nuts & grated lemon zest, to garnish
Crisp lettuce leaves, to serve
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the scallions and garlic. Stir in the cumin and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the couscous, cover the pan and let it stand for 10 minutes, until the couscous has swelled and all the liquid has been absorbed. If you are using instant couscous, follow the package instructions. Scrape the couscous into a bowl. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, mint, chile and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. If possible, set aside for up to an hour, to allow the flavors to develop fully. To serve, line a bowl with lettuce leaves and spoon the couscous salad over the top. Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts and grated lemon rind over the top, to garnish. Serves 4. Recipe taken from Vegetarian by Linda Fraser.