I had this story forming in my head, one I wanted to write so I could learn what would spin from it.
It’s a story that started with me buying myself a pair of Birkenstocks yesterday, because my belly has grown so large that I literally could not bend down and tie my own shoes yesterday. (Thank goodness for the kind-heartedness of the Chef, who came running and didn’t even make fun of me.) And so I drove slowly to MJ Feet and bought myself a pair of Birkenstocks. Not the fashionable ones, mind you, the dainty sandals I saw adorning the feet of nearly half the women in Rome when we were there. No, the clunky two-strap sandals I owned when I was in my twenties, the ones that everyone sees and secretly thinks, “Hippy.”
(And I love them. They are always the most comfortable shoes in the world. Why have I waited so long to buy another pair? I can simply slide my feet right in, without having to contend with the belly.)
I was going to share how Birkenstocks always remind me of the pseudo-hippy kids who went to my high school, the ones who clustered on the hill in front of the library at every lunch, discussing modernist poetry and surrealist art, twirling in their patchwork skirts, and smelling of the hazy cloud of smoke they left near the tennis courts at lunch. We called them Granolas. That was my image of Birkenstocks, those kids with dirty feet wearing worn-down sandals.
But as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that I sort of have become a hippy, albeit in the “I like to bathe” way. We are growing a garden in the backyard, even though the squirrels shirred off every leaf of the bok choy last evening, in a neat, flat line. I cook almost everything from scratch. My community of friends is dedicated to local foods, worries about the environmental impact of their existence, and gathers in each other’s kitchens to talk passionately about politics. My friend Tita always puts on an old bandana around her hair before she cooks. I have deep faith in hope. And I still believe in peace, love, and understanding. Yes we can.
My life has become the vision I dreamed of when I read Laurel’s Kitchen as a teenager.
And I could have wandered and wondered through the beauties of pregnancy, only four weeks away from meeting Little Bean. How much I love this time of swimming, sitting on the couch and feeling a foot rise up to meet my hand, beneath my ribs. How I dream my days in a happy daze and accomplish more when I listen to my body and slow down. And how, the closer I am to becoming a mama, the closer I feel to the earth.
And how feeling Little Bean within me makes me want to feed myself, feed us, with the wholesome foods I’m eating that might make some people brand me a hippy. I just call it good.
But you know what? I’m tired. Last night, I taught a class on saying yes to living gluten-free, to a wonderful group of people, with whom I felt a real sense of community. But prepping for that, and standing on my feet for over three hours, left me feeling a little beat up. I’ve dragged all day, even through my walk with my dear friend Francoise. This morning, the Chef and I saw our doctor and found out the exact date of Little Bean’s birth; we have been emotionally elated and exhausted all day. And now, after preparing food, and writing a recipe, my body is aching to lie down and watch the Top Chef reunion.
And so I will.
Instead of a full story, accept this offering, in the style of Napoleon Dynamite: “I made you this delicious rice salad.”
Ruby-red rice salad with asparagus and goat cheese
I started eating so much rice during this pregnancy — thanks to starchy cravings and the beautiful rice cooker — that I had to find new ways to eat it besides plain and white. Recently, I’ve discovered my new favorite: ruby-red jasmine from Thailand. This company brings it into the US, with fair trade practices. It’s massively delicious, with a strong, nutty flavor. I can’t eat enough.
Because it’s such a hearty rice, ruby-red jasmine stands up well to strong flavors, and as the base of a rice salad. Cooking it with star anise, ginger, and garlic gives the rice such a punch that it almost smells meaty when it’s cooking. I could barely stand the wait until the rice cooker beeped.
And then you have to cool it. Well, I did anyway. I think this salad is best served cold.
You could mix any play of flavors in here you want. Local asparagus — so much longed for around here — is in its last weeks. I love shaving the stalks and plunging the green curlicues into the rice. Goat cheese camembert is its own delicacy. And the avocadoes are, now, green and creamy, like butter, but better.
But do what you want with this salad. You can’t go wrong. And it’s so darned healthy that you could almost call it a Birkenstock salad. (But I don’t recommend putting your shoes in it.)
1 star anise
nub of ginger, peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon butter (or non-dairy substitute)
pinch of pepper and kosher salt
1 cup ruby-red jasmine rice
2 cups of water
Put the star anise, ginger, garlic cloves, butter, pepper and salt in your rice cooker (or pan). Add the rice, and then the water. Stir once, then set the cooker on high to do its magic.
When the rice has finished cooking, deeply fragrant and enticing, spread it out on a large plate. Pick out the nubs of ginger and garlic, and the star anise. Put the rice in the refrigerator to cool down.
After the rice has sufficiently cooled, toss it with your favorite vinaigrette (we like champagne vinaigrette in particular). And then top with the following:
pieces of avocado
goat cheese camembert
chive blossoms and stalks
fresh cilantro, chopped
shaved asparagus stalks.
Or, whatever feels right to you. (I’d dig some sunflower seeds here too.)
Enjoy, and know that you are feeding your body. Oh, and this tastes good too.