Orange Chips and Brittle Behaviour

Tonight I sat in a sound bath. 

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My day had started at 6 a.m and continued as a whirlwind of frantic motions and looming PMS-like symptoms. Breakfast was so long ago I can barely remember it. When I had my first break at 5, I ate dinner alone, as usual. I had french fries and mayo for dinner with a side of crudités. I scanned through emails with my right hand while eating with my left. I sipped on an Old Fashioned I had made myself using a special ingredient. 

With ten minutues to spare, I zipped across the street to the Arts and Hertiage Centre, where the event was being held. I was asked to bring a cake. I made it yesterday, knowing today would be non-stop. Yesterday, I garnished the cake with some orange slices I cut finely using the mandolin (that is, I lay the slices down on parchment at the bottom of the cake pan with the intention to un-mould  and flip it over to serve).  I had extra slices so I put them in a pot with water and sugar. I thought: maybe they'll be marmalade or maybe an orange-infused simple syrup. Then I made the cake batter. Meanwhile, as the simple syrup bubbled, the slices maintained their shape and became vibrant and so I changed the plan.

After they had simmered a while and the pith began looking translucent, I pulled the slices out. One by one with a fork, I sieved off the excess liquid and lay them on a cooling rack. I put the rack in the oven after the cake came out. I turned the oven off immediately. 

The next morning (this morning) after I ran about a while, I came home quickly to check on the oranges. I had dared not open the oven lest some residual heat be let out. Still a bit soft. I turned the oven to the lowest it would go and checked on them every half hour until it had been about 2 hours. I cooled them as I went out to do more errands. They became beautiful crispy orange 'chips'. By evening, they were bitter and slightly sweet and just lovely with my Old Fashioned. 

I finished my cocktail and headed back out.  I arrived at the sound bath and put the goodies aside. I found a space on the floor in the dark room, where 15 others lay on their yoga mats and covering themselves with blankets. I sat against the wall, on the wood floor, with no blanket. 

The instructor began to make sounds using her quartz crystal bowls - though I could't be sure how (my eyes were closed). With the first note she made, I imagined the colour red. The sound changed and I felt intuitively it was yellow.  We were asked to think of a word and we were gently reminded this is the time of year for making goals. I had had a hard day working with my mother.  It was my fault things didn't go smoothly. The word "gentle" came to my mind. It was a purple word. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), I have a strong aversion to purple. 

I am not gentle. I would like to think I am full of love. I'd like to think I am graceful. I am intuitive. I see beauty where others don't. I am in awe of the world often. I am caring.

But I am not gentle. 

I spent a long time trying to clear my mind and work on my breathing and I did try to be "present". Instead, I fought with my racing mind. By the end, I just wanted to go home and eat chips in bed. 

What made my head spin was thinking: treat others how you want to be treated.  I know that my aggressiveness stems from working in kitchens for over 15 years. I realized most people (e.g. my mom) want and need to be treated gently. I realized I have a difficult time remembering that because I do not want to be treated gently. 

What problem do I have with being gentle? I realized tonight that I look down on those I think are "soft". Where does this hostility come from? It would be easy if I could blame genetics; I am so much like my dead Grandmother, or so I've been told. (She was cold, mean and firm and I always got along with her swimmingly.) I'd rather be told, "Sweep that area at 5pm" rather than, "If you could, if you wouldn't mind, would you please sweep at some point in the evening?". I don't see one as more kind than the other, but my mother would. 

Ironically, I feel like I am being censored when I have to use more words to say something that I would feel more comfortable saying in fewer. Maybe it 's that I feel gentleness is: false, a lie, deceitful, phoney and a waste of time. It skirts around the issue. It isn't clear or to the point. It is just padding for the truth. It implies shame in asking for something. 

My mother would probably call me terse and imply it as something I should be ashamed of. It means clear and neat. Those are things I would take pride in. In busy kitchens, it's necessary to demand a number of things that need to happen without wasting time explaining them. In an interview, I would call my way of working efficient. 

I've often wondered if I have a slightly autistic brain, or in other words, if I'm "on the spectrum". I have a hard time following social norms and I often misunderstand body language and misread facial cues. I hurt other people, including my mother, with my sharp attitude. I'm not a flowery person. I'm full of spurs. 

So this new year, 2018, my word is : Gentle. 

Don't treat me gently, I don't like it. It confuses me and irritates me. However, I don't have to treat other people as I want to be treated. I should treat other people how THEY want to be treated. I will try my hardest to remember that other people feel more comfortable when I smile as I talk; when I speak slowly and end my sentences with a higher intonation; I will be aware of my facial expressions and try not to furrow my brow or clench my jaw.  I will stand with open body language and rest my face while listening even if I think there is no time for human behaviour I can't wrap my head around.  I will try to be gentle. 

I will continue to feed people. Food is a language I do speak. Try an orange chip:  They are bitter , brittle and delicious. 

Two Sheds, Bread and Chocolate Truffle Pie

I painted two small sheds yesterday. I had been hired to do this project a month back but I am a novice and went too slow. The weather changed before I could finish painting all the grooves. Yesterday was warm, possibly 15 degrees Celsius, and I finished painting after 4 hours. 

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It was windy when I walked home. It seems my days usually end around 3pm; That's when the sun starts going down. That's when the weather changes. I realized I hadn't been thinking about anything all day. I was focused on painting and my mind was blank. It felt like my brain was calm water lapping inside my head. 

I slept at 9 and woke at midnight to start the arduous but incredibly pleasurable task of making a mass batch of bread. It doesn't take too much effort, but it does take time and attention. I talk to the dough. It helps. I'm sure of it. 

By 7 in the morning, the bread was out and cooling and I crept back upstairs to bed for a few hours.

Just after 11, I flew out the door, late for work, holding the earrings I intended on wearing. As I descended the stairs, I prodded my ear lobe with the hook and hit something. I was already wearing earrings.  

This evening, I made a chocolate pie from scratch and with no recipe. I am mourning the closure of Bar Italia. It was a restaurant - until a few months ago - on College Street in Toronto. My parents took us there before they divorced. It was simply where our family went if we were going out for supper.  Everyone always got the same thing except Mom, who always had a hard time deciding.  

There was a chocolate truffle cake on the menu. It could hardly be called a cake. I don't think it was baked and I don't think it had flour or leavening agents. It was always the same: perfect and insanely rich. The slice was only an inch thick and maybe 5 inches long. It sat on a plate alone or there may have been a raspberry coulis underneath. Our family shared that one dessert every time. 

I went on my first date there, with a guy who would eventually propose to me when I was 16. We both used fake i.d. I don't remember what I ate, but I know where we sat and the view I had of that room. That room is etched in my memory forever. 

Later, I got a job as a cook there. It was my third job ever. I never saw anyone make the chocolate truffle cake. Someone did it upstairs but I never saw who or when they made it. 

Tonight, I channelled Bar Italia and what I have learned about cooking since and I prepared two mini chocolate truffle pies. They are in a pie shells only because I had left over pie pastry. 

I cannot eat this pie, but I will savour the memories it holds. Tomorrow, I will give it to my mom and her partner, my stepdad, Trevor.