Full disclosure: this ish is lengthy. If you’re interested in the food, redirect your browser after the kimchi. If you are interested in the frantic musings of an intellectually-starved middle-aged lady, God bless your bravery. You may want to consider some professional help.
Presents come in boxes; gifts require a different delivery mechanism. This week, I received both.
The latest vegetable box burst riotously with green and red, a summery head-nod to Yuletide presents. Here’s what I unwrapped:
Green & red: Christmas in June! Fennel, rhubarb, cilantro, scallions, radishes, red Russian kale, arugula, Napa cabbage.
And here’s what I did:
I roasted the fennel with plum tomatoes to make a very tasty soup, finished with a pesto made from the fennel fronds, garlic, almonds, parsley, olive oil, and salt and pepper. I think this pesto will also be great with fish (it’s cheeseless), white wine steamed mussels, or a riff on bouillabaisse.
Roasted fennel and tomato soup with fennel frond pesto.
The arugula also went into pesto. I slathered it on a sourdough focaccia with tomatoes and olives.
Focaccia with arugula pesto and other stuff.
The rhubarb—I am always shocked at how many closet rhubarb fans are out there—joined another huge haul of rhubarb (thank you, Dave Morin!) and emerged as both rhubarb-strawberry sorbet and a batch of truly unattractive rhubarb pop tarts.
Perhaps the ugliest rhubarb pop tarts on record.
The cilantro garnished a loose interpretation of a Vietnamese cold rice noodle salad.
Cold rice noodle salad with pickled vegetables, chicken, peanuts, lime, and herbs.
And the kale got friendly with some chorizo, potatoes, and eggs for a set of hearty breakfast burritos. I forgot to photograph the burritos, but my friends at the gym happily covered my butt by providing mid-bite burrito shots. Thank you, Dacia and Tonya!
Breakfast burrito with potatoes, kale, chorizo, eggs and cheese.
The radishes I pickled and the cabbage became a tiny jar of kimchi. Briny, funky food in jars #FTW.
Kimchi & pickled radishes.
Which brings me to gifts. This week I had the incredible opportunity, thanks to the insane kindness and generosity of my friend Morgan, to attend the Boston screening of “For the Love of Spock,” a new film by Adam Nimoy exploring both the life of Leonard Nimoy and his iconic role of Mr. Spock. Both man and character have transfixed generations of both super-cool and super-geeky people (one might—one should—argue that those two groups overlap significantly). I’ve written about my own history with Spock in the Bowie tribute, a relationship for which I give all credit to The Unit.
Here’s the thing about gifts: they don’t come from a wallet. They come from a brain, a heart, a soul. You can’t predict a gift, or even really wish for it, because you often don’t know you want it. Maybe you don’t want it. Maybe you just need it, which is far less glamorous. A gift requires sacrifice on the part of the giver and a gift is almost never deserved, so there’s a good bit of grace involved. And grace is a messy, messy thing.
Before I get involved in my own navel-gazing about how this film fascinated me, let me be clear: GO SEE THIS FILM. It should be out in September. Even if you have no history with Star Trek, GO SEE THIS FILM. It is a beautifully realized, artfully rendered narrative. Adam Nimoy’s film-making will make your Grinchy heart grow at least three sizes. The score, performed by The Macedonian Radio Symphony Orchestra, lends all the right emotional notes to a story of such depth and gravitas. GO SEE THIS FILM.
I know I drone on and on about how much High Intensity Interval Training has done for my fitness level. Well, this film was freaking HIIT for my brain. This film exhilarated me, gave me that deliciously painful, sweaty-and-breathless, endorphin-riddled high of a much-needed punishing workout. I stayed up all night emailing The (poor, long-suffering) Unit (still in Greece, and therefore not middle of the night for him….just sayin’) bouncing philosophical constructs off him, trying to fine tune the precise Greek words I needed to describe what I wanted to express. Then, the even more complicated task: trying to determine how to internalize this art that had riveted me so deeply.
In the opening scene of the film, Nimoy quotes his own poem, I may not be:
I may not be the fastest
I may not be the tallest
Or the strongest
I may not be the best
Or the brightest
But one thing I can do better
Than anyone else…
To be me
I know this resonated with many of us at the screening that night. For some it was a comfort, but for me it kicked the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee into full voice, and the following is a faithful rendering of the minutes of the committee meeting that occurred the following morning (I know, because my phone recorded it when I should have been recording my to-do list for the day):
What if the best you is just comically boring? Just fantastically, hideously inadequate? And, not even fantastically inadequate—because that might even be cool—but inadequately inadequate. Totally beige. No! Not even beige. That’s not giving beige enough credit, because there’s some nuance in beige. Whatever is more beige than beige. Ugh! I need a new word.
I think we now all know why I am not pursued by fancy New York literary types, asking me to write dialog.
The concept that continues to swim around in my head and in my gut involves the battle between mastery and excellence. I love mastering things. I can doggedly pursue a singular task or technique until I can do a passable job of it. This blog overflows with my avocational promiscuities: cultivating sourdough, St. John’s-style donuts, making jam, cutting up a pig, blind tasting a wine. But I inevitably lose focus once I’ve reached an acceptable level of competency. I never rise to excellence. Excellence requires more than skill; it requires inspiration—and endurance when inspiration disappears. Only the very strong can fight for excellence and only the confident can find it. To all this, add agility, discipline, and an open-mind. Excellence is not for weaklings.
Adam Nimoy focused a loving yet honest lens on his father’s life and career. Every frame of his film bespeaks painstaking craftsmanship, unwavering vision, and tremendous soul. Excellence lives in this exciting, provocative, subtle, captivating film. And it issues a challenge to the rest of us to rise up.
Thank you, Morgan. Thank you, Adam. Thank you, Leonard. I didn’t know I needed this gift and I certainly didn’t deserve it. But I’m thrilled (and a little scared) to have received it. The rest of you: GO SEE THIS FILM.
Morgan’s brother, Adam’s son, Jonah covered Bowie’s Starman for the closing credits with his band Furiosa. It’s also pretty damn excellent.