Hello, hello! Just back from seeing my lovely Dad and sister in Florida. It was a super visit, with too much food, lots of sun (and sunscreen) and loads of cheering for my star-pitcher nephew. Going to Tripp’s baseball games are always a highlight, even if any mosquito in a 20 mile radius always finds us…
It is funny to think that this young man, with a 90 mile an hour pitch (he is only just 14), used to throw so wildly that even the spectators ducked – from behind a 25-foot mesh fence. Perhaps I exaggerate. A tad.
All of the boys that he has played with on teams over the years have changed and grown out of all recognition. Except for their batting rituals. Even when they have sprouted a foot or two and have size 11 feet, their quirks at bat still give them away. They’ve all got stronger, faster, more accurate, etc, but they still have their same funny routines when at home plate. Whether it is a balletic reach from a 6-footer, with arm and opposite leg balanced in the air (yes, it is as funny as it sounds), or a skyward glance and a bat-tap on the home plate, they’ve pretty much all been true to their pee wee-league selves – even if they now crack one over the far fence instead of nearly knocking over the umpire. It is hard to shake off completely our former selves, especially when it is a comfort, a part of who we are.
On the plane(s) home I was thinking about how we hold onto a lot of our formative selves; our rituals giving us away even as we climb a career ladder or try on different lifestyles. I realise that my childhood gang would recognise me even now, with my middle age waist and deepening wrinkles, because I poke my tongue out of the side of my mouth when concentrating. Just like in a comic depicting someone thinking really, really hard.
My grandmother used to do that too, when rolling out her exquisitely light buttermilk biscuits. I used to stick out my tongue when drawing and when tying my shoelaces (remember those!). Now I do it when reading a difficult academic paper, driving in rain or snow, and yes, when rolling pastry. I also have always eaten all of my vegetables first and then move onto the protein and starchy stuff. I don’t know why but I think it is because I have always loved vegetables, and perhaps inwardly want to make sure that if my plate gets wrenched away for some reason that I am able to at least eat my favourites.
The last time I rolled out pastry I caught myself in flagrante delicto. Or rather, Mr A caught me and shook his head. I tried to reel it back in but I found I couldn’t concentrate. I needed that ritual, that comfort. Food can be like that too. Take away all of our comforts – even if doing so is better for us (no sugar, no added salt, blah blah) – and we take our eye off the ball. Life is fast, furious and relentless. Most of us need a little constant in our lives when all else is spinning, and not always in our control. Sure, we can adopt new and healthy habits and comforts but I am definitely of the a little of what you fancy school of thinking. As long as we are aware of our rituals, our comforts, and not allowing them to control us.
Snacking and sweets are a comfort to many of us. Nearly all of us can relate to the child with the scraped knee being offered a sweet or treat to sooth them and take their mind off the trickle of blood coursing down their leg. Maybe now that doesn’t happen so much. Perhaps it is a shot on the iPad instead (if they don’t already have one, of course). But it is good to feel in control of our emotional connection with food. To be able to have a hard day and think, actually instead of having a bar of chocolate I will go for a head-clearing walk. Or I will make a healthy-ish treat to share, as well as get rid of some frustrations by rolling out dough. Or both. I opt for both I know this is all a bit tangential but I hope I can plead jet-lag as mitigation!
And speaking of treats, I have some to give away. I don’t usually do giveaways but when the folks at Natural Balance Foods got in touch I thought it would be something you all might like to try. These scrummy Natural Bars bars - just raw fruit and nuts smooshed together – are not to be used as emotional crutches. Eat these with a happy heart and enjoy the 100% natural ingredients and no added sugar.
The food to glow first choice for sweet snacks is something raw like a plum, or homemade like my recent apricot and citrus bars. Or even a fistful of my good-for-you granola. But truthfully we usually have a few Nakd bars kicking around. Miss R likes to stick one in her school bag occasionally, and I often have one (Nakd Pecan Pie is my fave) in my work bag if I haven’t got around to making anything treat-like.
This giveaway is for anyone. You can live in India, Singapore, New Zealand, the UK – wherever. Just leave a comment on this post: about the tart, your own rituals (keep it clean!), the giveaway, or anything vaguely related and you are in the running to win a pack of 18 different natural bars, including two new flavours that I am wanting to try (Rhubarb and Custard and Caffe Mocha). All bars are gluten, wheat, dairy and GM-free, with no added sugars or syrups. Incidentally, I see on their website that they now deliver to the US, and for October and November delivery is free. Woo hoo!
I’m whipping this little sweet thing over to Heather for her Sweet Wednesday Link Party to join all the other goodies already lined up. Go over and join in!
Miss R’s track of the week: Venus In Furs – Velvet Underground and Nico (1967 recording with Lou Reed)
In this quick and easy fruit tart I have used puff pastry, but do try it with phyllo pastry sheets if you like, lightly buttering each layer (I suggest 5-6 layers). And change out the pears for wafer-thin apples, or even cooked quince. You could also mix a pinch of cinnamon or cardamom in to the tahini but, as regular readers know, I am perhaps a bit overfond of the latter and am giving it a rest today.
To make it even more luxe, drizzle with or almond or cashew cream* when serving.
Makes 6 slices
½ pre-rolled puff pastry sheet
2 small dessert pears or 1 ½ large pear
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
50g (1/3 cup) best quality runny honey + 2 tsp honey (divided use)
50g (1/3 cup) light tahini paste (sesame seed paste)
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste/powder
2 tsp (10g) dairy or coconut butter
Equipment needed: baking parchment, baking tray, 2 small saucepans, paring knife, pastry brush or similar (eg clean small paintbrush)
1. Roll the pastry out on a piece of baking parchment until it is a bit thinner; trim away uneven edges. Score a frame into the pastry about 2 cm from the edge, taking care not to cut all the way through. Lay on a large baking tray. Prick the inner frame of the pastry all over with a fork. Pop the pastry in the refrigerator while you prepare the pears and tahini-honey.
2. Quarter each pear and carefully run a sharp knife under the fibrous core to remove it and the stem. Thinly slice the pears, place slices in a bowl and toss in the lemon juice. Set aside.
3. Warm 50g (1/3 cup) honey, the tahini and the vanilla in a small pan, stirring until well-mixed. You can do this in a microwave on a low setting, but I don’t have a microwave so can’t advise how long.
4. In another small pan, or the microwave, heat and mix together the butter and 2 tsp honey.
5. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and spread over the tahini-honey mixture, leaving the edges uncoated. Lay over the pears in a shingle pattern (see images) and brush with the butter and honey mixture, this time slicking the edges of the pastry.
6. Bake in a 200C/400F oven until the pastry is browned and the pears are tender – about 15 minutes. Timing will depend on your oven and the thickness of your puff pastry. Check at 10 minutes. Let the pastry cool for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
* Cashew cream: Blend 1 and 1/2 cups of raw cashews with 2 cups of warm, filtered water. Add in a touch of maple syrup and a tiny pinch of salt, to taste.