On Earth Day, people tend to talk about recycling, reusing and re-purposing. You’ll find tips for greening up your home, your life, and your food (which, by the way, is another one of the many benefits of veganism). One of my favorite earth-friendly mantras is “quality, not quantity,” which I know sounds like a trite sign I might hang over my kitchen sink, but enough of your cynicism! I take quality, not quantity to heart.
Now, this wasn’t always the case.
Once upon a time, my closet overfloweth with clothes and shoes I rarely wore, their designer labels fading away like an aged newspaper with my 8-year-old crooked smile self on the front (hey, I was in girl scouts and I liked the spotlight). Sadly, the prettiest clothes in unnecessary quantities did nothing to improve my life. I’ve since consigned most of the unworn clothes, whittling it down to just the outfits that bring me joy. And if joy is brought about by leggings, yoga pants, and the same pair of skinny jeans, so what?
We love our stuff here in the US of A, and we consume more junk(food) than we need. Our thirst for things is unquenchable. We make shows like Hoarders popular because we’re so horrified at all that stuff, yet somehow we fail to recognize that the same junk exists in our daily life. Although not usually to the same extreme.
Yesterday I was “weekday brunching” (coining that time as my own blog term, ok?) with a friend, chatting away about books and writing and the demons we face when trying to put words down on a page. My demons tend to be persistent and like to shout about my failures and completely unfunny jokes. My demons are on a cheerleading squad capable of one cheer only: Give up! G – I – V – E – U – P! [leg kick.]
As we consumed our LPQ coffees and it’s-totally-normal-to-eat-oatmeal-at-12-on-a-Thursday oatmeal, I came to a sudden realization that it’s such a luxury to find friends who can understand the plight of a wannabe artiste. Before you freak and think I’m going all “gosh, isn’t it hard to be a writer?” on you, I swear I’m not. Because really, it’s not hard to be a writer. Anyone can take the pen to paper, their fingertips to the keyboard. In some ways, that’s the beauty of writing. It remains one of the world’s most accessible forms of expression.
What can be hard is the fear, the uncertainty, the inability to know where you fit into a world obsessed with careers and typical life span trajectories. Writers tend to be observers. And great writers are able to take their observations and turn an interaction over oatmeal into a subtly informative moment between two friends.
I for one have always been an observer, and a really nosy one at that. If they haven’t blocked it from their memories, I believe my parents can tell you how they had to suffer through car ride after car ride with the Katie in the Morning, Noon, and Night Show playing on a loop in the background. I wanted to know everything, from the street name to the temperature to the details of where we were going, why we were going, how we were going, what we would see, what we would do, and how it would impact my long term plan of attending Julliard, joining the NYC Ballet, residing in a castle, and having a butler.
When I got older, I was acutely aware of the differences between my life and my friends’ lives. My dad drove me to school. I had two last names. I didn’t have a communion. My mother couldn’t sew my dance costumes. My parents didn’t hang with other parents. No one said it outright, but I knew it.
I was different.
And I so did not want to be different. I desperately wanted to fit in. I wanted a big group of gal friends in the worst way possible. I swore that no matter what I’d have my own gaggle of friends a la Beverly Hills, 90210.
Like any determined girl with a mission, I didn’t stop until I had the friends and the personal phone line to prove it. For years, I had many, many friends. We had sleepovers, inside jokes, and our own loud table in the cafeteria. If you needed a friend, they were there.
Except when they weren’t.
And though the story is much more complex than I’m making it out to be here, the lesson is important. I may have had a friend for every event, and a pair of shoes for every occasion, but I didn’t have the real deal, the one or two or three friends who understood me, who knew what do when things got really tough (and did they ever get tough), who got that I was different and encouraged me to embrace the differences rather than stifle them.
“Quality, not quantity” is a life lesson that has taken me a long and sometimes painful 28 years to learn. I can’t say that I don’t long for a million dresses I’ll never wear or a group of girlfriends to hang with when my city life gets lonely and depressing, but I know now that a few great people, outfits, conversations, meals will always win over a million gossip sessions, sleepovers, and pints of ice cream.
I’m OK with a few when they look like this:
A few good things is all you need to love .
And that’s the motto with this salad, one that was inspired by a DC restaurant often overrun with giant groups of girls looking to catch up over endlessly sugary margaritas (terrible! i do not recommend) and unlimited chips. See, we’ve often ruined a great dinner here by drinking too many margaritas and chomping on too many greasy chips while we await a table for almost an hour.
Too much! Much too much.
So, make this salad with as many or as few ingredients as you like. Savor every bite. Share it with one good friend. And be OK with knowing that this – a simple salad and a conversation with someone who gets you – is just enough.
Let the Sunshine Salad with Sweet and Spicy Almond Butter Dressing
Veggies are up to you! Here’s what I use:
- 4-5 cups of baby spinach and/or baby romaine
- 1/4 cup black beans
- 1/4 cup peeled and diced jicama
- 1/2 of a red pepper, diced
- 1/2 of an orange pepper, diced
- 1/2 an orange, peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup corn
- 2-3 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 an avocado, diced
- 1-2 T Sweet and Spicy Almond Butter Dressing (reipe below)
Sweet and Spicy Almond Butter Dressing
(vegan, raw if you use raw almond butter)
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 t lime zest
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 t sea salt
- 1/8-1/4 t cayenne pepper (1/4 t will make the dressing very spicy!)
- 1/4 t cinnamon
- 1/4 t minced garlic
- 1/2 T agave (feel free to add more if you like a sweeter dressing)
1. Combine the above ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth, adding additional water if necessary to get the right consistency.