Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mind Playground Salad

We were driving around the town surrounding my college, listening to music and trying to forget our impending homework. The year was 1999, but we were listening to Joni Mitchell as though she had only just been discovered, as though we were the ones who had discovered her. I pumped the pedal to match the music as we drove slowly through the crisp Massachusetts night, watching the bright stars and masking the smell of cow manure with our tobacco smoke. We pulled into the main strip of the hippy town of Northampton, and I slowly rolled my car into one of the diagonal parking spaces.

“Guys, watch this” I said, impressed with myself for the discovery which I was about to share. I rolled up the windows and changed the CD to Beethoven. I turned around to face the backseat, and looked earnestly into the eyes of the curious motley crew of college kids crammed into the seat.

“Watch carefully how the people on the street move to the beat of the music.” I turned the music up, shifted to face the front again, and hoped to God that this experiment worked for them the same way that it worked for me and that they would not think that I was crazy. One by one excited hoots came from the backseat as the music built to an apex just as a man stood up and caught a running dreadlocked girl wearing a giant knit sweater in an embrace. Your brain will match the music to the movement. It’s amazing.

The mind is a magnificent playground. Emotions like fear and anger are often physical reactions to some sort of visual stimulus that exists before the story of the emotion is ever created. An arachnophobe who spots a spider might experience dialated pupils, rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, and enhanced senses. The brain makes sense of these responses by registering them as fear, but the initial physical reaction is so rapid that it happens before they even register that there is a spider in front of them.

The messages you give your body affect your thinking. I thought about how this applies to food. When I taste lemony sorrel, as I did today, I am transported to being a kid in the garden eating clovers with my brother. When I taste soy sauce, I think of being an angsty teenager experimenting with a diet of rice eaten with chopsticks, when I taste tahini and garlic I think of college where Annie’s dressings were a staple. I taste these experiences over and over, even though the actual taste buds that first received these foods have long been gone.

Tahini dressing
1 Tbsp sesame tahini
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
½ Tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp tamari soy sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 small bunch chives (about the size of a dime)
salt and pepper
pinch sugar
Place all ingredients in a small food processor and blend.

The salad
3 cups mixed red and green leaf lettuces
¾ cup garbanzo beans, cooked (or canned)
3 carrots, peeled and sliced

Christina’s vote: “This salad put me on the lookout for bunny rabbits”

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