There are entire sections in bookstores devoted to self-help and existential crises–strings of volumes about a particular topic that ails your mind or social life–but I have found that the most inspiring and motivating writing, cloaks itself in books and pieces that you may not have imagined moving you in such a way at the onset. The pairing of these two books, came not because of some underlying connection I foresaw between them, but rather their inherent differences; one book comments about guidelines while the other is stripped of a typical structure and speaks to its reader through a kind of stream of consciousness. My introduction to Bird by Bird began a few months ago after taking a class and being given some lines from the text. Intrigued by the no-nonsense nature of Lamott’s writing, I purchased the book in no time. My acquaintance with Anaïs Nin started on an unspecific date some time ago and I’ve wanted to read her writing in more depth ever since. I chose to start with House of Incest because, though obviously personal to Nin, this short text is connected to dreams and the relationship a person can have with them. I loved the idea of pairing dreamy and practical prose together and seeing where my hunger would take me.
House of Incest by Anaïs Nin
There were many directions this piece of fiction took my mind. A short, seventy-two page text that, without me telling you what it is about, grips onto reality and pulls down her unmentionables. There were times when I felt as though I was caught in a loop of words, twirling in her dedicated syntax and palpable mission with her diction. It’s the kind of text best read in one sitting, although I didn’t have this privilege; I was guilty of re-reading pages, just to take in her fluidity with language and mood once more.
Nin camps out in a world of dreams–or a stream of dreams, if you will–and we the audience come along as her fellow camp kids, getting to hear her stories of sameness and the selfish human lust for anything that’s accepting and similar. Never resting too long on any one particular message, Nin quickly morphs her audience–along with her characters–into a relationship of trust. Do we, as human beings, find oneself in another person and call this love, or are we infinitely selfless in our love? She posits that love, and our interpretation of it, is questionable, and her challenge of this idea is aptly put. Nin also depicts moments of consciousness directly beyond the womb and the trauma of birth. She comments on human fragility–particularly female fragility–and what it means to feel as if you could be vanquished at any moment; the gulping hedonism that tears us all open and exposes our lesser side. This text is one for which you should begin with an open mind and heart. I felt confused and unnerved with some aspects, yet in love with others. This book was an inspiration for writing TO your ideas and feelings, not structuring them.
Additionally, the particular edition of the book I read had incredible photo montages by Val Telberg, a visual artist of the early twentieth century, which truly added to the intensity and brevity of the text. If you can find this edition, I highly recommend!
“When human pain has struck me fiercely, when anger has corroded me, I rise, I always rise after the crucifixion, and I am in terror of my ascensions.
“I could not bear the passing of things. All flowing, all passing, all movement choked me with anguish.”
“The world is too small. I get tired of playing the guitar, of knitting, and walking, and bearing children. Men are small, and passions are short-lived. I get furious at stairways, furious at doors, at walls, furious at everyday life which interferes with the continuity of ecstasy.”
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The subtitle of this book is Some Instructions on Writing and Life, and Lamott is true to her word. This book was as much about giving thoughtful advice as it was about writing, and without spoiling too much, let me say that you will not come away from it without some stronger sense of purpose for your position in life and how you approach it. Our propensity for writing comes from an internal drive to ignore the inertia that may take over otherwise. Art is not always something that most have a natural and innate aptitude for, but rather is something that is learned and practiced with dedication and grit. If any of us hope to be good at, or aim to succeed at, anything in life, it is just that we should commit to being devoted and steadfast in our wish to learn and improve. Only then can we unleash our skills and talents and, most importantly, learn to trust in ourselves and others. Lamott contends that a life worth living is one for which we’re lucky enough to wrestle with our demons long enough to find what we’re willing to practice and dedicate ourselves to, long-term. This is our lasting gift, if we choose to let it reveal itself to us. I would recommend this book not just to writers, but to anyone who wants a more genuine and practical take on living life to its fullest.
“My deepest belief is that to live as if we’re dying can set us free. Dying people teach you to pay attention and to forgive and not to sweat the small things.”
“You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along with way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you.”
As for edibles I decided to make something with pumpkin seeds. I wanted to utilize food that was high in a particular amino acid, tryptophan, known for raising serotonin, which stabilizes sleep, mood, and anxiety. Pumpkin seeds are a wonderful source of iron as well, and happen to be one of my favorite noms. House of Incest and Bird by Bird call to attention not only the necessity of dreaming, both literally and metaphorically, but what we can learn from the act of sleeping and dreaming soundly. There could be no better fit of a foodstuff to pair with these two books than pumpkin seeds. Reading does not require a person to be relaxed nor does sitting down for a meal, but both tasks remain more approachable and filled with joy if we’re rested and calm. Additionally, you all know how much I love mint, and our most recent CSA box had the most beautiful bundle of mint; I couldn’t wait to put it to use. In fact, my mind is brimming with ideas for mint this summer so maybe I’ll be able to share a few more of them with you. For now, enjoy the delightful flavor of this pesto and have sweet, vivid dreams.
Pumpkin Seed & Mint Pesto
- 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
- 1 bunch fresh mint leaves (discard or set aside most of stems/rinse)
- 6 sun dried tomatoes
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt (or to taste)
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- In dry skillet, spread pumpkin seeds out and toast for a few minutes over a medium flame or heat until they are golden.
- Place garlic cloves, pumpkin seeds and mint in food processor and pulse three or four times until roughly chopped and blended.
- Now, add in remainder of ingredients and blend until smooth but still modestly chunky.
- Enjoy with zucchini noodles (as pictured) or with pasta, as a dip, on pizza or whatever suits your fancy!
I thoroughly enjoyed the close reading of these two books. Insight shows itself in unexpected places; open yourself up and you’re sure to be filled by some wonderful words of wisdom. If you’re interested in reading other Noshed in a Book posts, I’d be delighted, and please take a second to share some of your #noshedinabook thoughts and pics. Join me in my next reading selection Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. And remember…bite responsibly!
Dear morning muffins,
What’s new with you this week? As I’m sure you have already noticed, this week I write to you about mint tea and a special state of mind. It stands to reason that there is always space in our hearts and minds to discuss a refreshing cup of tea and to transcend whatever is ailing us currently, but somehow this space can become crammed with doubt and judgement. In all honesty, I cannot say that the stronger, more meditative moments always overwhelm the weaker.
I begin this way to emphasize that sometimes, I find, it’s helpful to look outside of ourselves to gain temporary peace, even if for a moment. I’m learning to stratify my best moments and allow them to germinate, and maybe, just maybe, a cup of mint tea is the catalyst in this experiment called life. Too heavy? Another thought then.
For over two years I’ve written about our connection to food and why this connection is significant for each person. Our connection to food should not, at any time, be jettisoned. Apathy is not the answer. During a recent visit to a thoughtful and well-informed massage therapist, I was reminded of this. Throughout my healing session, she and I began discussing Connect a Bite, but more importantly, what it means to connect to your food and be conscious and aware of what you’re eating and how it will affect not only you, but the environment, and other creatures therein. She told me of the small farming town she grew up in, and how disconnected from what they ate most of the people in the town were. She said, though many of the farmers within the community sold fresh produce, they ate very little of it, and that there was generally a “tough shit” mentality when it came to food. What does this gruff and pithy idiom mean in relation to food? I don’t think I can say what it meant to the members of her hometown, but I can tell you how I perceive this statement in relationship to the public at large. The idea, eat what you’re given–no matter what it is–and be grateful. Another blatant aphorism that aligns with this thought, “beggars can’t be choosers”, essentially. Perhaps this is a Southern mentality, but encouraging the stunting of one’s ability to be inquisitive is something I cannot abide. Soon, our conversation became more about the present and our personal regard for what we’re eating.
The truth. It’s easy to allow the consciousness regarding your comestible choices to become a burden. I’m sure there are times when many of you want to eject yourself from your aware minds and just be. This I can sympathize with and very much relate. However, I wouldn’t trade what many would classify as food neurosis for anything. Maybe this is a burden I’m supposed to carry and maybe writing about and finding a way to connect you all to food is a part of my life path. Maybe, I shouldn’t say “maybe”. With mindfulness, it is within my best intentions to just be.
Why mint tea?
Drinking tea is a state of mind. It is with this thought I would like to share a cup of mint tea with you. A truly clarifying experience that will brighten your mind, calm your heart, and enliven your spirit. If you can’t get on board with any of that, at the very least it will help you slow down, even for just a moment.
Fresh Mint Tea
- 4 or 5 sprigs of mint (decrease or increase the amount based on the weakness or strength you prefer)
- 2 to 3 cups hot, nearly boiling spring or filtered water (depending on your teapot size and how many sprigs you choose)
- With a sieve handy, pull mint leaves from each sprig and place them into the sieve. Rinse with cool water to remove any dirt
- Muddle leaves just enough to allow essential oils to release and then place the leaves into teapot strainer (take care not to demolish the leaves, as this could release the chlorophyll and introduce a bitter taste to your tea, not very pleasant)
- Bring water to a boil and pour over leaves making sure to quickly cover the teapot (this traps the essential oils in the tea rather than escaping into the air)
- Allow leaves to steep for approximately 8 to 10 minutes
- If teapot strainer is housed within teapot, your choice of allowing leaves to remain (what I did) or removing them.
- Pour and serve. Enjoy with a friend, partner or in solitude.
I hope you enjoy this cup of tea and remember…bite responsibly!
Healthy and Mindful Regards,
Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of peppermint is winter holidays growing up. Once a year, I could open the freezer and I knew there would be peppermint ice-cream in the freezer, something that I used to enjoy exclusively with my mother. It would be green with lovely red and white chucks of peppermint candy crammed in every crevice like little glaciers –once in your bowl–waiting for discovery. Why I like eating something this cold in cold weather, I will never entirely understand, but there are some things in life I think we shouldn’t question or over analyze, and this for me, is an embossed moment, not to be tampered with. Granted, I don’t eat the conventional types of ice-cream any more, for obvious reasons, but this idea still remains a nostalgic strong-hold in my mind. I’ve yet to experience another ice-cream quite like this one.
I’m also reminded of a conversation I had with my oldest brother just a twinkle ago, about how peppermint candy came to be. Why would something that started out so herbal and green transform at some point into a delightful symbol of a season, a feeling, a moment? I’ve dug into this idea and here is what I’ve discovered. One beginning of the peppermint candy started in the US with the ‘Peppermint Kings‘ (illustrious growers), that has such a regal ring to it, doesn’t it? Skip past numerous inventions of mint gums (Wrigley falls into this bracket), in the early 20th century, came the invention of the first mint hard candy by Clarence Crane. It was supposed to resemble a life saving device with red and white stripes. The popularity of mint or peppermint candy rose until the 195os when the crops were jeopardized by verticillium wilt. However, the origin of the peppermint cane or stick that we now know dates back to Europe in the 17th century. A choirmaster in the 1670s was noted for bending her mint candy sticks at the tip to resemble a shepherd’s staff, and they were handed out to the children. Later, the red stripes were added sometime before the 1900s but nobody seems to know where this tradition exactly started. What does this tell me? Mint, something so simple, has spread globally for one main reason, its pure flavor and reach. I hope you’re reading this brotha!
Now, it’s thought that the peppermint herb originated in England and gained more commercial insight as time passed. My interest at this point is to refocus on the non-candy use of mint and how it plays a role in my life in could in yours.
What’s Up Peppermint, What Do You Do?