Monday, August 9, 2010

Summer Rice Thread Salad

I sat riddled with anxiety at her kitchen table. It was not that I had anything in particular to be anxious about, but I was in my early twenties and going through a phase of life where everything made me feel insecure.

Kelly floated back and forth from one counter to the next, pulling out drawers and opening cabinets gathering things. She told me a story about a recent food history class she had taught, most of which I missed because I was busy thinking hard about safe ways to fill the empty space in our conversation. My insecurities had rendered me totally preoccupied.

She dropped some salt into a simmering cast iron skillet on the stove. The skillet threw back some steam, which she caught in her outstretched hand. Kelly cooked barefoot, in a minimalist kitchen which contained a collection of mismatched ceramic pottery and her grandmothers china. She was a short woman with short red hair and a liberal sense of humor, which overflowed when she laughed. Kelly was a chef who had left the restaurant business to go to graduate school to study Spanish. In spite of Kelly's Irish heritage, she had found a home in the culture and the cuisine of Mexico. She taught me that I would be okay, no matter where I go or what I do for a living. She inspired me to apply to graduate school.

"What kind of tea would you like?" Kelly asked. I hadn't planned that into my list of things to talk about.
"Oh, whatever you have is fine" Kelly gave me a knowing look, then opened a jar and plopped a tea bag into each of the two mugs on the counter. The radio was on, and playing some pleasant classical guitar music. The kettle whistled and Kelly went over to the stove. She turned off the heat and picked up the kettle, then slowly, in a steady stream poured the water into one of the cups. She put the kettle down on the tiled counter top, and let the steam rise in the first cup for a minute, watching it dance through the brisk kitchen air. Then, with equal patience and slow precision she poured the second cup. She brought the tea cups over to the table and then sat opposite from me, wrapping her hands around her mug. I looked at her quizzically.

"Do you always make your tea like that?"
"Like what?" she asked.
"Like that is all you are planning to do for the entire day?" I elaborated.
"Only recently." Kelly laughed. "It's a Buddhist principle. Don't make the tea to drink the tea. Make the tea to make the tea. You drink the tea to drink the tea. It's a subtle difference, but it helps me not get ahead of myself."

I looked down at my teacup, and watched the tea as it bled into the water. Then I took a deep breath, and gave myself permission not to speak.

Summer Rice Thread Salad
cook 3 oz (1/2 pkg) rice threads by pouring boiling water over the top and letting them sit for 10 min. Drain hot water and rinse noodles with cold water. In hand fulls, lift the noodles up and cut them (as though cutting hair) a few times, so that they can be easily detangled. Mix in:
1 small shredded zucchini
3-4 medium carrots, sliced
1 small bunch cilantro
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
1 small banana pepper (or hot pepper)

2 1/2 Tbsp grape seed oil
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp ume plum vinegar
1-2 tsp sriracha hot sauce
whisk together and serve.

Christina's vote: "This salad was interesting, in a good way"

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