I know better, but sometimes I do it anyway. I get busy. Too busy to take care of myself properly. Then I get tired. So tired. My thoughts move at a pace akin to limping through knee-high swamp water. My body protests with aches and pains and little warnings that I ignore as long as I can, longer than I should. I come home from work too late and depleted.
Something has to give, so I stop cooking. What is normally self-nurturing and a joy and a creative outlet becomes a chore. I cross it off my list and subsist on a bland succession of quesadillas made without love. Some nights I pick up the spiciest Thai takeout I can find. Of course, I have no leftovers so I buy sandwiches and Cheetos for lunch.
I feel even more tired and bloody-minded. I complain about my job, even while I have out of work friends who would be glad to have it. The sun comes out and I still think, “If only it was even warmer.” My hair gets unruly. Voices sound shriller. The edges of my world feel a bit more jagged.
And so it goes, all week until my stomach hurts with a low constant fire that demands change.
I know I’m not the only one who does this. We all do. And I’d love to hear how you break the too busy to cook/too tired to care cycle.
I’ll tell you my secret: Greens. As soon as I realize that I need to get back up on that wagon and take better care of myself, I reach for the biggest, leafiest bunch of greens I can find. I make a big pot of beans and another one of brown rice and I return to utterly simple basics. But the important part is the greens. Although not a panacea (they may not cure a broken heart–pasta and butter and wine will be needed for that), when prescribed for a crise de nerfs they are magical. I swish and rinse and slice and sauté. While this is going on, I calm down and get my head back in the game.
I fill a small bowl with restrained spoonfuls of rice and beans. I top this with a generous tangled heap of the smoking hot greens and I feed myself. I feel my vitality returning, just a little. My eyes and heart start to clear. It’s a process, but it begins with the elixir of greens.
I pack myself a lunch of the same and put the rest in the refrigerator. Whatever comes next week, Je suis prest. I am ready.
Collards with Raisins and Orange Juice
(adapted from Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry)
- 1 bunch clean collard greens, ribs removed, and cut into very thin strips
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup raisins
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 1 tsp hot sauce or chile paste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the collards and cook uncovered for ten minutes or until softened. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water.
Remove the collards from the heat, drain, then turn them into the bowl of cold water and stir briefly to stop cooking. Drain in a colander and press gently to remove excess water.
In a large sauté pan or wok over medium heat, sauté the garlic in oil for one minute. Add the collards, raisins, and a sprinkle of salt. Saute for three or four minutes, stirring frequently. Add orange juice and hot sauce, then cook briefly—approximately 30 seconds. Add additional salt if needed and serve.
Makes 2-3 servings