Frosted Sage

I didn’t know if I killed the sage. I didn’t know if the shock of transplant, or the dipping toward freezing temps, or the full moon at the wrong time might kill it. I didn’t know if these splotches of frost, these teeny tiny measures of fluffy ice heaped on the leaves would be lethal. I don’t know enough about plants. But I wanted it in my new garden so I moved it.frosted sage (2)2mp.jpg

Like the sage, I have felt the shock of transplant. After my life turned upside down twenty years ago, I moved from my longstanding home and community in order to protect my children and pay my bills – both as best as I could. Uprooting is hard. One very wise woman (she knows who she is) suggested to me that I had no idea how much I would lose. She was so right.

Like the sage, I was made rather uncomfortable by the whole ordeal. Moving south didn’t involve the challenge of freezing temps but it did involve numerous scary unknowns and a nonstop schedule with insane hours and sure, why not write a book besides all that (because life isn’t crazy enough)! Moving involved new culture, new neighborhood, new relationships – lots of this New woven in with lots of that New woven on top of the old, threadbare-in-places Tapestry of My Life.

Like the sage being affected (or maybe not) by the full moon, I too have been at the mercy of (a lot of) forces I don’t control. The real estate market, for one thing. Its machinations caught me, bit me. Twice. Mainly though, I don’t control other people. Everyone carries on with their own life, and I know they all have burdens to bear. Most don’t know my personal hell, but some of those who do pretended nothing happened, or, geez, it wasn’t that bad. Some “make their peace” with it and land where it seems none of it matters (which is different than pretending nothing happened). Some don’t realize that A affects B in ways you don’t see until twenty years later. Some judge. Some blame. Some withdraw. Some make decisions that have painful, landscape-altering consequences.

But in all fairness to the sage, strength and resilience have played a mighty role. Fine, pluck me up, roots and all. Replant me in a more convenient location. I will stand firm, and the sun will shine here too and the rain will come. In winter I will rest. In spring and summer and fall I will bring beauty and flavor.

Likewise, shock of transplant, discomfort and forces I don’t control have not been all bad for me. My faith is stronger, my perspective broader, my tolerance greater. In a new place, wonderful people have come into my life and the ties I have with some from before have been strengthened. Many have wrapped love and comfort and prayer around me and reminded me intermittently in their personal, special ways about what is important, which helps more than they can ever know. Some bring gifts, some bring humor, some bring advice, hope, joy, fun, inspiration. Some hold me tight, some make me smile or laugh out loud, some help me make things nicer than they were before, some show me reasons to count my blessings. Some do a lot of these things in one beautiful bundle.

Pushing the boundaries of what you thought you could do generally results in You can do more than you thought. Doing more than I planned on, more than I thought possible, more than my imagination could ever have conjured up, changed me. Had things not happened as they did, would I be the person I am? Had unforeseeable pain, calamitous events and inevitable ripples not occurred, would I understand some things I didn’t understand before – even if there is way more yet to understand? Even if pain resurfaces at very inconvenient times? It is not for me to know what the Me Whose Life Didn’t Turn Upside Down would look like. I only know the Me whose life did. I can’t be sure, but I think this Me might be stronger.

I am glad beyond words to be where I am, but forces beyond my control have nothing to do with location. I suspect I would have learned in any case that life throws punches and some of them hurt. I would have learned in other ways, but learned it nonetheless, that Good begets Good. I would have kept the best of my old friends (I hope!) and met some amazing new people and seen glimpses of everyone’s true colors one way or another. I am not sure what will kill me, but so far, by the grace of God, it is none of the above. Nor is it a red pickup truck barreling through an intersection at unsuspecting me and Jerry. If indeed I have been moved to “The Back of the Line,” there are punches yet to meet, marvels yet to witness, joys yet to embrace.

The sage endured the unexpected shock and challenge of a move, but landed in a bed of fresh, good soil. Perhaps so have I. Today’s rain is dripping straight and steady, doing its job, balancing the sunshine like tears that are coupled with hope.

rained on sage2mp.jpg

Maple-Rosemary Pairing

Every now and then I get a hankering for French toast. Visions of warm maple syrup tempt me more than usual right now because I know the sap of maple trees is running well (nights cold enough, days warm enough, correct differential). Plus, I had some bread that was two days old.

In the bakery section of my grocery store (and I don’t mean the bread-in-plastic-bags aisle) they sell a variety of in-store baked bread. I’m not naïve enough to believe that they mix up the dough there, but at least they bake it there, so it’s fresher, sometimes even still warm. You find a decent rye with caraway seeds, a crusty multigrain loaf and a lovely “country” white made with rosemary and olive oil.

Lightly toast a slice or two of that rosemary bread and top it with butter and honey – that’s some good eating! So on Saturday I said to myself: Why not French toast? Fairly thick (just under one inch) slices soaked in the egg-milk mixture, browned in butter and topped with maple syrup – hmmm, using the rosemary bread for this just might work. So I tried it.

rosemary french toast cr.jpg

I love how the pieces puff up as the egg inside them cooks. I love the crispiness formed (especially on the edges) by the hot butter coming in contact with the soaked bread. I love warm, pure syrup dripped over top and then soaking into the soft inners.

Any meal, any occasion, any success, any failure happens because of the confluence of numerous factors, a specific alignment of the figurative stars. This specific breakfast is no different. For it to happen included 1. having this kind of bread on hand, 2. knowing how to turn bread into French toast and 3. being willing to experiment.

Let’s start with the bread. Somewhere along the line it occurred to someone to put jalapenos in pickles, sugar on corn flakes, barbeque flavoring on potato chips. Why not rosemary in bread? Who can doubt that Simon & Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme helped bring all these wonderful herbs into kitchens they had previously not entered, introducing a generation to flavors and aromas that enhance many foods? I’m not sure which is better in bread – kalamata olives or fresh rosemary – but I’ll take either on any day. If there is honey in the cabinet for drizzling on top, I am in heaven.

French toast is such a simple meal to prepare – I should make it more often. For the five pieces you see in the pan above, plus the two in a second pan (no point squishing French toast), I used four large eggs (my good eggs, which undoubtedly contributed to the amazing result) whisked up with half a cup of milk. This was a bit much – three would have done – but I took the extra egg mixture and carefully poured it onto each slice after I put them into the pan but before I flipped them, which maybe added to the puffiness. Oh, and I used about two tablespoons of butter in the large pan and one in the smaller and cooked them over a medium flame. Get the butter hot before you put the soaked bread in the pan.

The being willing to experiment part is, for me, both limited and expanding: Limited because I know what I like and what I don’t like (so I outright refuse to consider certain things like jalapenos, sorry to say), but expanding because 1. My experience over time has accumulated in a mysterious and wonderful way. New combinations occur to me that never would have. A new method I never used pops in my head for something I’ve made many times. It’s super cool! And 2. Let us always, at least in some benign thing, remain unpredictable. Life is just more fun 😊

Some of the world’s best things came about by similar alignment of stars, i.e. having/doing a thing routinely over time and then a need or a change or an idea turns it into a version of the original by way of experimentation. Ice cream cones come to mind. New Yorker Italo Marchiony sold ice cream off a pushcart to Wall Street customers looking for a quick snack. He served it in little (let’s assume fairly inexpensive) glass cups, but too often these either broke from being dropped or were not returned to him. He came up with an edible cup and was awarded the patent in 1903 for his ten-at-a-time cone-making mold. At the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition his cones were so popular he still couldn’t keep up with demand, so he reached out to fellow exhibitor Ernest Hamwi, who was selling a thin, waffle-like Syrian cookie. The cookies, molded while still warm, made great impromptu cones.

Oh, yum! Never mind French toast – who wants an ice cream cone??!!