WE’RE STUFFED

Four months ago we were in a stranger’s kitchen, turning out a mixture of semolina, water and sea salt for the first time. We had no idea then if our attempt would work out.

More than a dozen attempts later, we still don’t.

We’ve come to expect that each new recipe will be more challenging than it looks. Kneading the dough into submission is physical and demanding. A perfectly balanced filling requires trial and error. And very often our excitement will trick us into overstuffing the pockets of dough until they barely hold together.

Surprisingly, with each attempt we also recognize a parallel to the way we move through our lives. Slowing ourselves down to make our meals from scratch has exposed our propensity toward convenience and excess.

But thankfully, it is also teaching us to be centered and focused on what is important. 

It’s shown us that the end result is secondary to enjoying the process; that there is beauty in the making if you are present for it.

And while we may not always know what we’re creating or where it will take us, we’re learning to trust that the effort will be worth it.

IT CHOOSES YOU


“Most of life is offline, and I think it always will be; eating and aching and sleeping and loving happen in the body. But it’s not impossible to imagine losing my appetite for those things; they aren't always easy, and they take so much time. In twenty years I’d be interviewing air and water and heat just to remember they mattered.”

 
― MIRANDA JULYIT CHOOSES YOU

 


GETTING HITCHED

 

 

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

— john muir, naturalist

 

 

While the nature of our more recent adventures has been decidedly more culinary-centric, the first years of our courtship were spent flirting in the wilderness. As fate would have it, both worlds will collide this summer.

In 130 days we head to California to embark upon a two and a half week thru-hike of the John Muir Trail. And while our trip may not be as important for society as this one, its still a pretty big deal for us. 

Along the way, we’ll travel through more than 200 stunning, self-supported miles of the Sierra Nevada mountain range including Yosemite National ParkJohn Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. At the end of our journey, we’ll be greeted by Mount Whitney which, at 14,505 feet, is the highest summit in the contiguous U.S.

Beyond communing with nature, the trip is significant to us for countless other reasons. First, it’s a celebration of a milestone birthday for me (stop trying to do the math!) Next, it is a nod to our dream (deferred) of hiking the Appalachian Trail. It’s also a perfectly timed challenge for our fascination with making things.


Challenge #1: Fuel

Not that we need any coaxing, but it doesn’t hurt that dark chocolate is a favorite food staple of superstar hiker Andrew Skurka. Burning an average of 5,000 calories per day, this will be the first time we can cram chocolate into our pie holes guilt-free. (I hope it’s not the last.) 

Calories aside, the challenge lies in figuring out how to stuff as much of our Batch chocolate as possible into our shared, 3 lb bear canister. Not only will we have limited space, but we’ll have to defy hot, humid hiking conditions to keep the chocolate palatable.

 

 

Challenge #2: Protection

Ive always been a favorite of mosquitoes and blisters so transforming our cacao-inspired body blocks into a natural weapon is at the top of our to-dos. Combined with the exposure we’ll get cresting several 13,000-14,000-foot peaks, we’ve added natural sunscreen to prevent Zan from baking like a Thanksgiving ham. 

So no, we wont be carrying a rifle for bear protection, but we will be armed with natural products concocted in our very own test kitchen. Is it weird that I keep dreaming about a gorgeously designed periodic table poster? (Dont answer that.)


With an ever overflowing plate of things to do, we readily admit that none of these things are necessary to complete a successful hike of the JMT. They are, nonetheless, the kinds of projects that enthrall us — it seems that when Zan and I got hitched, our ties to everything else in the Universe became ever more apparent.

And, on that note, weve got testing to do...

PASTA IS SOCIAL

Unless you count the time Zan tried to master hand-pulled asian noodles while I was away on business (gotta love his the lack of hubris), its taken years to work up the courage to try making pasta from scratch.

Ironically, after all the overthinking, we were totally unprepared for our inaugural attempt...

We were just days into our stay in another country, in a stranger’s apartment with access to only basic utensils. Hubris in check, we kept our first shape simple. We chose orecchiette (translation, ‘small ear’), a pasta from the heel-shaped region that completes Italy’s boot. 

We made it a few times then invited our hostess to dinner. It was thrilling! Not only because it was not disgusting, but because it tasted like only made-fresh-with-our-loving-hands-then-delivered-straight-to-your-heart could taste.

It was also a poignant reminder that great meals have less to do with experience or equipment than they do with intention.

In our kitchen, the most prized ingredient is not saffron or truffle — its time.

Time to cross reference dozens of drool-inducing recipes, gather fresh ingredients and slow dance between mixing and rolling. And, of course, time to truly savor the meal, meditating on all the lovely things that make it worth the extra effort.

Connected to time, sharing is the other essential. We learned this one years ago when we started Social lunch —a weekly meal where work comes to a halt so we can gather as a team and break breadIt’s still one of my favorite things about Social and, no surprise, our longest running office tradition.

We hosted this past Social lunch at our home and everyone took part in the pasta making. And while we shared the tips and techniques surrounding the making (not to mention calories), we also shared the intangibles that make a meal truly memorable — good company, lively conversation and positive energy.

Time may be limited, but sharing knows no bounds.