I thrive on ritual. I wake up at 5am every day so that I can have a good hour or two before my family wakes up, for my personal morning rituals : a brief meditation, a long sitting with countless steepings of tea, some yoga. I cherish those silent moments, even when it means jumping out of bed at ungodly hours, which I have gotten so used to that I can’t help it any more, even though it turns me into a pretty anti-social person (if you have received messages from me at 6am, now you know), especially here in Spain, where everything happens a couple of hours later than in the rest of the world. So be it.
Israel has never really shared this love for ritual; he is much more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda guy. I respect that, though when it comes to teaching some kinds of rituals to our kids, things can get complicated, when both parents aren’t on the same page.
Throughout the years we lived in Berkeley, almost every Thanksgiving was spent with our friends Rick & Alice, whose rituals we adopted, at the same time as we morphed theirs. Thanksgiving at Rick & Alice’s always included a walk around the block between main course and dessert, and then a game of charades. Thanksgiving at Rick & Alice’s came to include a tortilla de patatas, Spanish omelet.
Thanksgiving was our favorite holiday in the US, because it’s perhaps the only non commercial holiday, a gathering of friends and family, with good food and long lingering at the table, i.e. sobremesa (which in the US is rare, only happens on special occasions like this one). Because our family is so culturally mixed (or mixed up?), we can pick and choose, so we decided to make Thanksgiving a keeper, and celebrate it in Barcelona from now on. It saddens me to see how fervently the local culture has adopted Black Friday, the ugly, massively in your face commercial side of a beautiful holiday (which has not been imported, of course).
This Thanksgiving was extra special, not only because it was our first one in our new home, but also because we were hosting our first visitors from California. They are vegetarian, so Bruno and I designed a (very earthy, with lots of roots, and maybe not green enough!) menu sans turkey. No one in this family likes/eats turkey anyway; Israel is allergic to fowl; Bruno finds it way too dry. Bruno stayed home from school on Thanksgiving day (not a holiday in Spain) and we cooked together. Maybe that can become a ritual, too. We prepared an Ottolenghi-inspired brown rice dish with wild mushrooms, leeks, caramelized onion and black garlic; some creamy mashed sweet potatoes; a butternut squash soup with saffron and orange; a vegetarian stuffing, and two pies: a classic pumpkin pie and a buckwheat-crusted (GF) chocolate and chestnut pie. We lit one of our first fires in the fireplace (thankful to be able to do that) and of course included the charades aftermath, Rick & Alice style.
There is so much to be thankful for; there always is. I have in recent months been trying to make an effort to include gratitude as a part of my daily ritual (still working on it) but it’s also nice to have a special occasion to sit down and share your thanks with the ones closest to you. It’s different when gratitude is a daily practice, because you start to notice the little things, which are really the most important ones, IMHO. If thanks is limited to once a year, you end up focusing on the bigger picture.
I have come to realized that almost everything important in life is a practice; improving oneself requires patience, persistence, and discipline. Meditation, playing an instrument, yoga, tea, relationships, gratitude: these are my practices.
Here go some -little/big- things I’m thankful for today, right now:
-hearing my daughter sing
-my son’s constant hugs and compliments
-that I don’t have to move again any time soon
-Israel’s support in all I do
-our new home, especially the kitchen
-our new village, especially when I’m on the train back from the city and I come out of the tunnel and see all the green
-the view of Montserrat from my window
-friends, new and old, near and far (Shilpa, Chiara, Inbal, Magda, so glad to have you close by!) (Ali, Jenny, Cathy, Alice, Magui, Ale, Cruz, I miss you!)
-all the new work-related projects
-Ramen the cat, still surprised by how much his presence changed our lives 2 years ago
-rituals, being able to find time for them
-Olivia’s quirky nature
-watching Bruno fall in love wholeheartedly
-when Israel makes me laugh
-coming back to my music and tea practices, after a few shaky settling-in months
-being able to connect people, and to connect with people
-expand my clients’ horizons through my /Sobremesa/ work and expanding my students’ horizons through my academic work
-another ritual: the Saturday morning Valldoreix farmers market and my walk there with Israel
-finding amazing farmers and producers in our new area
Eating at home is always my preference, always. But sometimes, when ritual turns to habit, I get tired of the mundane task of cooking, and that’s when food cooked for me by someone else tastes so delicious, especially when it tastes of home.
This dish from bohl has become my go-to when I’m in working in the city and have a little while to dedicate to myself. It’s just like something I might make at home, and always hits the spot. Bohl recently opened, just a few blocks from where we used to live in Barcelona, a neighborhood which 5 years ago had no interesting places; a sign of how quickly this city is changing. To me their food is like a warm hug on a cold day. As is probably clear to you by now (my logos have always included a bowl), I prefer eating everything in a bowl, things just taste yummier.
The dish’s name -“Mom’s Asian porridge bohl” is already a winner. It’s listed on their breakfast menu, but for me it’s a perfect lunch. When I make similar versions at home, I usually use rice instead of oats, which I digest better, but I enjoy the oat porridge version enormously every once in a while.
Bohl’s version includes oats, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, a low temperature egg, avocado (a forbidden treat here in Spain), cherry tomatoes, nori seaweed, sesame seeds and chili flakes.
I am going to share with you the recipe for /onsen tamago/ (literally, “hot springs egg”) I learned from Dave at Lorimer Kyoto, in which the egg gets poached within the shell. For this version you don’t need any fancy gadgets like a sous vide cooker, just a pot or water. S you can get that amazing silky consistency at home. You can add the egg directly to your rice or oat bowl, or also serve it on the side in a small bowl with some dashi and shoyu, and then mix with chopsticks, like they do in a typical Japanese breakfast, my all-time fave.
Recipe by Lorimer Kyoto
Yield 4 eggs
Boil 1 liter/quart of water in a pot. Remove from heat and add 200 ml cold water.
Add the 4 eggs to the pot. Cover tightly and let sit for 14 min. Then remove eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and set them on a plate to rest for 4 min. Finally set them in an ice bath.
Variation: you can then soak the eggs in the shell in a shoyu-mirin mix (1:1 ratio) for up to 24 hours in the fridge.