commotional mussiness and other more delightful distractions…

16 08 2010

I find it suits me best, when my life appears to be thrown into topsy- turvy disarray, to settle back and experience the ride.

This month I had a birthday; appreciated a glorious excursion to the South Island of this beautiful country; experienced a magnificent ‘one-of-a-kind’ sunrise, played Yahtzee and introduced M to his first Devonshire Tea with scones/jam/cream – whilst enjoying a scenic coastal train journey from Christchurch to Kaikoura; was mesmerized by a dynamic vista of snow-capped mountains and expansive ocean…

I awoke to the majesty of the Kaikoura Seaward Ranges on my birthday...

I also found myself knocked sideways with swine flu and a secondary infection; lost my sense of taste and smell; coughed until everything was rearranged inside me…

Now, I very much hope,  that is – I should like to believe – I am on the mend. Tinctures, aromatherapy, sleep, water, wonderful loving ministrations and 2 courses of hard-core antibiotics (possibly the only 2 that I am not allergic to) may finally be working.

Having no sense of taste or smell has been a strange and awful experience. I have had no appetite which has meant no real passion for cooking. Admittedly, the looser jeans are a nice bonus but I really missed flavours and bouquets and all the yummy combinations of spices and herbs. I persevered at first with some healthy soups and found that by adding hefty doses of chili and other strong spices, I could detect a faint ‘taste’. Of course, Zuzu and M ate their portions with streaming eyes and gallons of water.

Last night, however, I had a hankering (and this is why I suspect I am feeling better in spite of how I may look and sound) for a tasty dish. I thumbed through some old favourites until a lentil pattie recipe caught my eye. Suddenly, I was determined to make  Fettuccine and ‘Lentil-Balls’.

It is the easiest recipe and is perfect to doctor – adding and subtracting based on the contents of your pantry. Originating in the wonderful Rose Elliot’s Complete Vegetarian Cookbook , which is one of my favourite sources, the recipe can be used as a Lentil Loaf (with some added whole wheat breadcrumbs), Vegetarian Lentil Burger Patties (with added chopped nuts to make it heartier), Lentil Balls or even Lentil Pâté (with a little added vege stock and a whiz in the blender).

Step 1: Boil 1 cup of lentils (green or brown) for 20 mins in water.

Step 2: Sauté 2 chopped onions and 2 grated carrots in a pan with a little oil until soft.

Step 3: Add chopped garlic to the pan (I added 4 cloves because I really wanted to taste it) with ½ teaspoon of cumin and ½ teaspoon of coriander.

Step 4: Add cooked lentils to the pan and stir in some salt and pepper.

Step 5: Add 1 tbsp lemon juice and ½cup of chopped parsley (I used basil).

Step 6: Mash or blend in processor until mixture can form balls.

Step 7: Gently roll in flour and cook in a small amount of hot oil to seal the outside of the ball.

Step 8: Place balls gently in oiled roasting dish (or parchment/baking paper if you like) and bake for 20 mins at about 200°C – rotating balls periodically.

Serve with fettuccine and your favourite tomato sauce. I made a quick tomato pesto sauce with a can of chopped tomatoes, softened onion, fresh basil, s&p and 2 tbsp pesto. It was tasty!

I would say that ordinarily I have a great capacity to be delighted and moved; engaged and intent; concerned and determined – affected.  When I am quite sick, however, I am afflicted with a very short attention span; one half a magazine’s worth of reading at most and possibly a couple of Anderson Cooper interviews on YouTube. I have felt a disconcerting sense of disconnectedness – a vague detachment from my usual interests and concerns. It is a little like watching the world through a gauze veil and I have to admit that I have enjoyed the feeling.  I liked being removed from the need to evaluate my moments – for example: I found myself doing dishes in Kaikoura, a chore that I usually avoid.  As I stood at the sink, gazing out at the awe inspiring snow capped peaks – my hands soaking in warm, sudsy water – I was able to acknowledge the process of a job well done and genuinely savour the experience.  As I heal, I feel myself pulled back into a more emotional connectedness and I can appreciate the difference. For someone like me with a busy, monkey mind, it is a gift. A birthday present.


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