Friday, October 14, 2011

Lunch Box Chronicles: Day One-Hundred Forty-Five (Breaking the Fast for Yom Kippur)

This is a guest post by my very dear friend, Anna Collins.

The Perfect Meal to Break the Fast
 This year on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar, I fasted as required by tradition.  Then, I broke my fast with spelt.  Let me be more exact --  I broke my fast with the most delicious slice of Spelt Right pizza one could imagine -- a slice filled with the flavors of mushrooms, garlic, three types of cheese, and fresh basil.  

It was also a slice filled with something more -- something that cannot be easily described.

I do not find fasting to be an easy task, but it is something I look forward to because it is transformative.  Modern life is a rushed enterprise, even if one fails to embrace its speed and works to rebel against its multi-tasking nature.  Fasting forces one to observe one's struggle with modernity from the outside, looking in.  As I fast, I becomes aware of my humanity, my frailty, and my dependence on the things that are easy to take for granted in a society still far more privileged than most.  

This year on Yom Kippur, when it was time to break the fast, I found myself with a slice of spelt pizza in my hands.  This was not just any slice.  This was a slice made by a dear friend, someone who has treated me and my family as extended family.  As I ate that slice of pizza, I thought about our friendship -- its history, its dynamics, its future.  I also thought about how fortunate I am to know my friend.  We may have our differences, but we care for each other.  That is something I will not take for granted.

Today, as I consider the moment I broke the fast, I realize something else.  In some parts of the world, my friend and I would not be able to easily share a meal.  Some would consider our cultural heritage too conflicting.  My friend is of Christian Middle-Eastern decent, and I am native Russian Jewish.  The fact that I broke the fast with food she made is powerful, perhaps even transformative.  It is hard to name the key ingredient in that slice -- words are not enough to describe it.  Perhaps the word "humanity" is a good start. 

Here is recipe for humanity.

One Spelt Right Pizza Dough Fully Thawed and Risen
Extra virgin olive oil
4-5 cloves of fresh garlic
8-12 ounces mushrooms (sliced)
2 ounces chevre soft goat cheese
12-16 ounces mozzarella cheese (shredded)
2 ounces grated fresh parmesan cheese
8-10 leaves fresh basil
Sea Salt

Pre-heat oven to 450 F.

Lightly oil pizza pan with EVOO.  Stretch Spelt Right Pizza Dough over pan.  Drizzle dough with EVOO and garlic ground with salt (I do this with a mortar and pestle).  Spread with hands.  Put in oven for about 5 minutes just firm up the crust.   In the meantime, saute sliced mushrooms and more garlic and salt in EVOO until browned.  Set aside.   Take crust out of oven and top with shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan, and small dollops of goat cheese.  Next add the mushrooms spreading evenly.   Top with with 6-10 leaves of fresh chopped (not too fine) basil.   Bake for 15-20 minutes until crust is light brown on the bottom.

Remove from oven.  Slice for family.  Tempt friend who is fasting and save extra large piece for her.   Place extra large piece in aluminum foil, wrap carefully, and give to Anna with a kind admonition not to eat until sundown.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lunch Box Chronicles: Day One-Hundred Forty-Four (On the Meaning of Life-Blood and One Incredible Banana Bread)

So I have been stressing a bit lately.  What’s new?  Most of it is a self-imposed choice of wanting to climb very high mountains, forge new territories, and occasionally get some sleep. 

Sometimes, however, genetics just get in the way.   This time, it is not only personality traits, but also blood clotting traits.  No one really wants to talk about this stuff.   Blood.  It is kind of taboo.  But, blood has become the focus of my life.   Recently, I was diagnosed with two different blood-clotting disorders – Von Willebrand Disease and Factor XI deficiency.  Factor XI is also known as hemophilia C.   At first the “H” word made me shutter, but now it has transformed me into the guardian of my blood-line – the entire tangle of my family emanating from my father’s side.   My children, my siblings, their children, my cousins, their children.  It is all genetics.   It is like unraveling a mystery.

These newly discovered diagnoses explain years of mystery.   Like why, during certain times of my life, I was so drained, I felt I did not have one more speck of energy to move on.  Or, why I chose to have all of my babies 5 years apart.  Or, why I ended up in the ER hemorrhaging after a simple tooth extraction.  Or, why my father never healed after surgery, which led to his demise a year later.  Or, why my aunt died within hours of surgery.  Or, why my oldest sister is always covered with bruises.

All of us were literally drained of our life-blood.   It is all genetics, but no one knew.   Until, now, that is. 

I recently have been told that I have been very lucky.   But, it’s also taboo to talk too much about luck.  So, I will leave it at that.  (But, I will mention briefly that I am lucky to live in Southern Maine, home to not only lobsters and great coastlines, but also a phenomenal Hemophilia Treatment Center at Maine Med.)

But, now that I am the guardian of this information, I have a responsibility to carry the torch, lead the way, make new discoveries and help those within my blood-line, especially, my youngest, who carries on the tradition of my lineage.   She’s only 9, and wishes to disclaim this inheritance, but unfortunately, she can’t.  Fortunately, though, she also has me, with the knowledge, no shame, and the ability to keep her out of harm’s way.  

So not only will I continue to teach this fierce 9 year old how to be strong, and to care for herself, and to look for signs, I am also teaching her how to be self-sufficient and climb her own mountains.

Spelt Banana Bread Made By One Strong 9 Year Old
During this recent tumultuous time, my littlest tyke really wanted to bake one day, but this baker entrepreneur mother was quite worn out.  So, with my encouragement, she and her big brother baked all on their own and made some incredible banana bread.

It was the perfect snack for a mom who was feeling slightly tired, but no longer drained of her life-blood.

Incredible Spelt Banana Bread

1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup organic sugar
2TBL organic black strap molasses
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups whole grain VITA SPELT flour
1 teaspoon aluminum free baking soda
1/4 cup orange juice
2-3 ripe bananas
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs.  Add dry ingredients, and then mix in mashed bananas, applesauce and orange juice.   Mix well.  Bake in 9 x 12 well butter glass pan, or in loaf pan.  Bake for 30-40 minutes in glass pan or 45 min-1hr in loaf pan.    ENJOY every life-filled moment!