Pieces of Process

by Maria Theresa Maggi on September 6, 2021

The emptiness that engulfs my family now that my foster grand baby has been returned to their birth mom is like nothing else I have ever experienced. It has been nearly two months now, and so far birth mom has only responded minimally to emails and has not responded to any requests for visits, in person or virtual. The baby we love and cherish as part of our family is out of our reach. Our hearts are broken. I also mourn that this refusal signals a kind of “recovery” couched in defensiveness and fear. And I worry about how that will play out.

In the meantime, I sing to my foster grand baby’s spirit. I gather shells and bright agates on the beach for them. I have fashioned a night light for them should their spirit travel in dreamtime back to where we sang and rocked and played. I tell them how much I love them and that I hope they are having a good day with their birth mom.

As I wrote at the end of my post, Becoming an Agate, “Holding this agate-in-progress in my hand reminds me to be patient with this mysterious work, that transformation can be slow and painful, or swift and unpredictable, but it is also inevitable. Somehow, though still encased in rough opacity, the light found that agate-to-be and made it shine from within. There will be another side to where we are now, even if I don’t know what it is or when it’s going to arrive. But in the meantime this humble rock reminds me to notice the way the light is getting in and shining through. . .”

Found beach glass and rock with scars and layers of time

I take hope from what surprises me out of my pain and lifts my spirit, even for a second: dandelions and their bright yellow flowers opening for a few hours in the dead gray grass, then gradually turning to wishes scattered across the air.

“Dandelions Blooming on Dry Grass” chalk pastel memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

The other day I read Gena Hamshaw’s latest edition of Weekend Reading over at her blog The Full Helping. She has been struggling with meeting a deadline for her next cookbook manuscript and wrote honestly and eloquently about having to turn it in with many places marked “TK,” which, I learned, in the editing business means, “to come.” In the context of her situation, she talked about accepting her frustration that this is the way she needed to turn it in, and also coming to acceptance of this as a practical reality and letting it be okay, it sounded like, for the first time ever.

That simple shorthand, “TK,” when I applied it to my situation, hit me entirely differently. It gave me a hopeful marker for so much of the emptiness I feel everywhere I turn. There is something, or someone “to come.” Perhaps someday another child to love. Perhaps a visit with the one we miss so terribly. Or good news about how well they’re doing. But just whispering that phrase “to come” into these empty spaces makes me ever so much more likely to want to stick around and see what is “to come.” It reminds me that in the depths of despair as a young woman I knew I did not want to end my life because, at bottom, I was curious to see how it was all going to turn out. So thank you, Gena, for that shorthand.  Sometimes we give each other miracles we aren’t even aware of.  I so appreciate the blessing of “to come.”

In the meantime, Cotton and I enjoy the last warm late afternoons as we head toward Fall, while the earth is still warm enough to sit on, despite being so terribly dry, so I can literally “ground.” Here we are, as we often are, looking out at the sun shining on the ocean, letting the earth take some of the sadness and release it into momentary wonder.

Maria (moonwatcher)

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I’ve had this book since before I got the diagnosis of MS, so it has to be longer than 25 years. I remember standing in a bookstore chain that no longer exists in the days I was a Laurel’s Kitchen vegetarian and being drawn in by the lovely art and the stories and all the details in the book. I brought it home. And as you can see, I loved it literally to pieces. It is so much in a state of fall-apart that it’s impossible to turn the pages without some of them falling out. It’s no longer a “book” so much as a collection of pages between a loose cover. Though I no longer cook with butter, oil or ghee, I keep it still, primarily to remember the ingredients and process for one of my favorite recipes in it: black eyed pea pancakes.

To continue to eat these pancakes on a low fat whole food plant-based diet, I first had to find a way to cook them without oil. Over the years, I’ve tried rubbing an iron skillet with onion. I tried adding a flax egg to the batter. Each of these strategies worked, kind of. But the real key is using a good nonstick pan.  That way I can be lazy, and not rub a pan over and over with an onion and hope it works, and not add any flax to the batter. The older I get the lazier I get about food prep, or rather, I should say, the less fuss I want to make. For years, I feared skipping the step in the original recipe that instructs the reader-cook to spend time popping at least some of the soaked black-eyed peas out of their translucent jackets. I remember putting some to soak in preparation for a visit from my sister, who is a chef, thinking sitting and popping the black-eyed peas out of their jackets would be a nice relaxing way for us to spend time together. I still laugh about the fact that she exclaimed how “boring” it was, reminding me I am really the only slow miracle gal in my immediate family.

These days, though, I’ve made more bean pancakes, like Plant-Based Cooking Show’s red lentil flatbread, that requires only 3 hours of soaking and not even any draining and rinsing before they get pureed, and that has made me bolder  and more fearless. So now, instead of following the instruction in the original recipe to shuck some of those translucent jackets off the black-eyed peas, I emphasize the sentence following that instruction: “It’s okay if you don’t do them all.” In my ornery old age, I’ve amended that to, “It’s okay if you don’t do any of them.” And you know what? It makes absolutely no difference in the quality or digestibility of these flavorful savory pancakes for me.

I suppose you could top these with vegan yogurt or chutney, but I like them so much I eat them plain right out of the pan. I also like to make a small batch and use them to push my salad and starch around–they go very nice with cooked yellow potatoes or sweet potatoes and dark greens.

So here is a lazy fat free version of one of  Madhur Jaffrey’s classics. If you’re in the market for a savory pancake and you’re too lazy to shuck those translucent jackets and you don’t want to use any oil, I hope you’ll give this a try.

 

Lazy Low Fat Black-Eyed Pea Pancakes

(in honor and gratitude for the original recipe)

makes 4-6 pancakes

1/2 cup of black eyed peas, soaked overnight

garlic cloves (1 or 2, depending on how much you like garlic, smashed and chopped)

a slice of ginger root, chopped

a piece of jalapeno pepper, chopped (I use just a little)

about 1/3-1/2 cup of water

about 1/3 cup of chopped cilantro

a generous shake of tumeric

a small shake of black pepper

a really really good nonstick pan

Drain and rinse the soaked black-eyed peas. Put the garlic, ginger and jalapeno in the food processor and process into smaller pieces. Add the drained black-eyed peas and process with them until you have a paste. Add the cilantro, the tumeric and pepper and most of the water and process until you get a thick batter.

Remove the batter to a bowl so you can stir it each time if the liquid separates. Heat your awesome non-stick pan on medium heat. When it’s warm enough, spoon about some batter onto the pan and spread it out a little from the center with a spatula or spoon. Let it cook for about 3-4 minutes, flipping when it’s done enough for it to come up in one piece on the spatula. Cook for 3 more minutes on the other side. Repeat until you have anywhere from 4-6 pancakes, depending on how big you want to make them.

You can also double this recipe. The original starts with 1 1/2 cups of dried chickpeas. That makes a lot of pancakes!

It looks like  World of the East Vegetarian Cooking is still available. If you like traveling to different cultures and regions through reading cookbooks, I highly recommend it. You might end up with your own falling apart copy, as you learn and adapt the recipes.

Maria (moonwatcher)

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An Announcement to My Subscribers

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