There’s is nothing so wild as nature. It’s both stunningly beautiful, ecstatic, ebullient and viscously terrible. Because nature has no sense of moral direction. It creates, sustains, and destroys. It’s chaos punctuated by rare moments of calm, seeming order and affection.
We forget this, living in our comfortable houses. How gorgeous and awful nature is. Man has never lived in such a comfortable time. You could live your whole life inside of a man made bubble where nature is completely irrelevant. Soon mankind will be able to eat food grown in labs, developed outside of the natural chain of life.
I think about this as I fill my hands with dandelion buds and violets, watching bumble bees and wasps weave in and out of the purple-green creeping charlie weeds. Wind catches my hair and spreads it over my face in a net. I pull it away, catch a glimpse of chickadees proudly chirping in a naked tree branch. A accidentally step on a worm underfoot. An ant crawls out of a violet onto my wrist, and I flick it away.
I feel I’ve only learned to love and appreciate nature for its wild strangeness as an adult; more so than I ever “got it” as a kid and teenager. Growing up at the beach I’ve been tumbled by storm waves to point of lungs almost bursting; and soothed by the sound of the ocean like a placid lake. Being-in-nature was something I saw more as a hobby than integral to life. I was more interested in being a bookworm/actress/dater-of-boys.
Hiking has done a lot to strip away my leanings either way, for or against it. I’ve had more than one experience of essentially collapsing in exhaustion in a sun-beat field after a day of walking with a heavy pack; knowing that in the infinite fields of red poppies and blue aster there are insects and arachnids of all sorts looking for something new to explore (my resting body). I think exhaustion teaches us acceptance. I really couldn’t care if grasshoppers were chilling in my pack. I just needed a goddam nap.
And so I’ve come to regard nature as a great teacher, doling out lessons on the impermanence, sweetness, chaos, and weirdness of our world. I weave myself a flower crown out of daisies and hellebores and bask in the sun, listening to the overlapping whistles and chirps of hundreds of birds. I shelter myself from the rain, hat held low, coat held tight. I jump, naked, into the lake. I watch coolly from my window as the hawk grabs the mouse.
And then I eat this pasta salad (how’s that for a segue?).
I’ve made this sauce at least 5 times in the past two weeks. And I’ve been developing riffs on it almost every night. Yesterday it was a parsley version (omit the scallions & goji, add 1 cup parsley and more lemon). Sauce inspired by the inimitable Laura Mess of The First Mess.
- 2 cups fresh english peas, shelled
- 1 block extra firm tofu, cut into cubes
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil, olive oil or ghee
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ⅛ cup white wine
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 16 ounces of your favorite gluten free pasta (+water & salt)
- wild dandelion buds
- violet buds
- handful goji berries
- 1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup goji berries
- ¼ cup tahini
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup fresh scallions (ends and tops removed)
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- salt, to taste
- Steam the english peas until bright green and just tender OR heat a wide pot over medium high heat. Once the pot is hot add the peas and ¼ cup water and cover. Cook for 2 minutes or until the peas are bright green and tender. Pat dry and set aside, covered to retain the heat.
- Heat a wide cast iron pan (or other wide sautee pan) over medium high heat. Add the coconut oil, tofu, tamari, maple syrup, paprika, and white wine and cover. Cook 5-8 minutes, until the liquid has cooked off completely and tofu is beginning to brown. Add the minced garlic and cook 2-5 minutes more, until the garlic and tofu are both browned and crisp.
- While the tofu is cooking, cook your pasta according to package directions.
- (Tip: wash your gluten free pasta in cool water after draining, separating the pasta with your hands. Then add a little bit of oil and toss. This reduces the stickiness of the pasta by washing the excess starch off).
- Once everything is cooked, combine the cooked peas, tofu, pasta, dandelion and violet buds, goji berries and tomatoes in a big bowl and top with the Goji Tahini Sauce!
- Add all of the ingredients to the bowl of a high powered blender: sunflower seeds, goji berries, tahini, olive oil, scallions, maple syrup, lemon juice, and white wine vinegar. Blend on high until the sauce is smooth. Add salt to taste, and blend once more.