I’ve started thinking a lot about love lately. To be more specific, I’ve thinking about love in the face of an uncertain, sometimes scary world.
That sounds dour, doesn’t it. I can’t help it for the moment. Adjusting to this new idea and identity of becoming a parent coupled with feeling that uncertainty acutely, especially because of the madness of the weather and current events and all that stuff, it leaves me really wondering how I’ll do. I struggle with love, you see, because I can be, well, an anxious person sometimes. I’ve been strongly affected by watching loss and sadness ever since I was very small, and somewhere along the way I just stopped trusting that there was benevolence in the universe.
And when you don’t trust, you armor yourself, guarding yourself against strong attachments because of the fear that something will happen, and you’ll be left bereft. But then (thankfully!) there are people in my life who mean so much to me, Joel, my family and community, Squid (so she’s a fur person not a person-person, but she counts), that my love for them handily bursts through any shields I have raised to try to protect myself. This is wonderful, but it’s also frightening.
I’m sure that baby, when he or she comes, will be the same. Except better/worse. I mean, let’s face it, I love our darn dog so insanely much I feel like I would be destroyed if something happened to her. How the heck am I going to handle the amount of love that comes with having a baby????
This little one makes my day
Because the world is uncertain, and mostly out of our control. We can set up all the plans and safeguards we can imagine, but we still can’t protect ourselves or others from absolutely everything. And dwelling on that sort of thing, my friends, is how you make yourself anxious (you know, in case you were wondering).
In the past 5 or so years, after I had noticed myself stuck in this sort of pattern of thinking, I started trying to work on it. Meditate or pray, I’ve been told. Journal. Develop the habit of thinking of yourself as lovable; this allows you to love others. Make note of things that you are grateful for, new things every day.
And this has helped a lot. But, some part of me could never be transformed because it always rejected all this work as a sort of Pollyana-ish wishful thinking. I would hear of disaster and violence, I would sit stuck in an unprecedented heat wave knowing that crops were dying and nothing was really being done about it, and I would try to feel grateful for something, but it just really, really felt like this was trying to plug my ears and shut my eyes and sing a little “I am grateful tralalala” to myself, like it was trying to pretend the sorrow and suffering, the badness, just wasn’t there or at least wouldn’t really affect me.
I felt this way on Monday, after learning of the bombing. I felt this way on Tuesday and on Wednesday too, what with more and more sad and infuriating events piling up in the reports on the radio. Being woken at 5 this morning by an alert (I still get all the Tufts alerts, even though I am working remotely now) that all MBTA transit was shut down and instructions to stay locked in doors didn’t exactly help. But, on one of my walks with the dog, just as a flock of cedar waxwings suddenly settled in every branch of the tree we were standing by, I felt grateful, and I was hit with a realization with the force of a load of bricks, one that had occurred to me before but that I had clearly never realized per se, one so perfectly obvious that obviously it would take me this long to get it.
Focusing on love and on all the things you are grateful for is not an attempt to say that there isn’t pain and grief in the world. And it’s not saying that there aren’t things to be afraid of, nor that you shouldn’t be wise and cautious when that is called for, nor that you shouldn’t work tirelessly to change those things that you actually are able to change. It’s saying that there are also amazingly wonderful things in the world, millions of examples of love and grace, infinite things to be grateful for. And what I suddenly finally understood was that all those things are just. as. real. It’s not wishful thinking when you’re thinking about something that’s real.
When you choose to focus your attention on the good, you’re not denying that evil is there or that horrifying things happen, but you’re denying them the power to control you and your life. It may mean vulnerability and the possibility of loss and anguish, but choosing love over fear, trying to choose it everyday, means choosing life. That’s a pretty powerful thing to be able to choose. I just got that. And it actually makes me pretty hopeful.
All this has virtually nothing to do with a warm potato and artichoke salad. I just felt the need to share a little of where my thinking has gone this week. But, I also very much want to share with you these potatoes. It is still snowing out here. No joke. Something to do with the melting ice caps and changes in the jet stream causing weather patterns to loop more. This new phenomenon is something I find actually quite interesting. Less interesting? Shoveling the sidewalk for the 10th time in as many days.
I couldn’t handle the idea of roast or mashed potatoes because it felt far too wintery. A warm potato salad, on the other hand, is a nod to spring and hopefulness. I got in my mind to pair little spring potatoes with artichokes, a certain harbinger of spring. Something about the light green flavor of artichokes makes me think of the sea, an odd association for sure, but I was certain it would contrast well against the grounded earth tones of potatoes. I also stirred in a giant spoonful of capers to amplify any hint of tang from the artichokes with bold brine.
Something about the potatoes and capers made me think of sauce gribiche, which is where the idea to chop, stir, and douse with what can only be called a butt-load of herbs came from. It’s like a collaboration between gribiche and salsa verde, and it felt perfectly tailored to the personalities of all other players be they green or creamy. Because of that vaguely gribiche-y character, I’m sure this would be good with hardboiled eggs chopped and mixed in, or with a fried egg atop. I served it with a small, crisply roast chicken and it was wonderful.
Warm Potato Salad with Artichokes and Herb Dressing (serves 4-6)
- 1 1/2 lbs. small potatoes (like red potatoes or fingerlings)
- either about 4 artichokes, trimmed, steamed and quartered (use this tutorial on prepping artichokes, if you need), or 1, 14-oz can of artichoke hearts, drained and quartered (this is the simpler option, obviously)
- 2 Tbs. capers (drained if in brine, rinsed if salt-packed)
- 1 cup flat leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
- 2 Tbs. chopped chives
- 2 Tbs. tarragon leaves (the chives and tarragon are optional. Parsley and mint are the most critical.)
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 Tbs. lemon juice
- Halve or quarter the potatoes, depending on their size, so that they’re in about 1 1/2 inch chunks. Put them in a pot and add enough water to cover them by at least an inch. Throw in a very large pinch of salt. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer and cook, covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
- While the potatoes cook, combine the herbs, and garlic in a food processor along with a pinch of salt and chop them together. (You can also do this by hand or use a mortar and pestle.) With the food processor running, pour the olive oil in in a stream to blend it in and emulsify the herb dressing. When it’s blended to an emerald colored, still a bit chunky sauce, stop and transfer it to a large serving bowl. Taste and adjust the salt to your taste, then stir in the lemon juice and capers.
- When the potatoes are done, drain them. Immediately toss them in the bowl with the dressing and caper and toss well to mix. Add the artichoke quarters and toss again. Serve warm.