Next Thing I Know…

I have never lived for any great length of time without wondering what would happen the next year, the next day, or the next hour in my life. It’s a deeply inherent part of my existence, and I suspect, of most other people’s as well. But I’m experienced and grown-up enough by now to recognize that I should jolly well limit my mulling over that mystery enough to spend the majority of my energies on getting the most out of the present—and putting the most that I can into it.

Call it whatever you please, devotion to making myself better in the here and now seems to me far more useful, meaningful, and simply enjoyable than mooning and swooning over what might be, may be, could be, or should be. I try, and I hope to try better. I mean to try better.

But really—what is coming? I can’t quite let that alone, either. Too tantalizing….

Meanwhile, in the here and now, I am tremendously grateful for many wonderful things. I am rich with love and friendship, with food and shelter and opportunity. And I have one of the greatest treasures of all, the knowledge and experience of peace. It may be a slightly rare commodity in the unknown, unplanned chaos of everyday life, never mind in the wider world’s daily struggles. But I have known peace and am gifted with times of deep and comforting peace through those riches I have just enumerated for you. And through no deserts of mine—I am glad beyond imagining that whatever lies ahead, I expect to keep looking for, and finding, Peace.

Happy Thanksgiving, and I wish all of you the opportunities to experience peace, and to share it with all of those whose life paths your own intersects. Peace among us all.Photo: Thankful for Peace

Let Me be So Attuned

For those of you who would like to Tune In suitably, the concert that was being prepared when I wrote today’s post will be performed tonight by the University of North Texas A Cappella Choir, conducted by my esteemed spouse Richard Sparks. Click on this link, and it’ll take you to the live-streamed concert at 8 pm Central Standard Time. Or, if you can, come on over to UNT’s Murchison Performing Arts Center and enjoy the concert (with me and a host of other fans) in the lovely Winspear hall.

Digital illo from a photo: A Cappella HarmonyI am listening to a superb vocal sextet as the singers demonstrate the purity of tone and the achingly clear, clean dissonances and harmonies that their conductor has just been coaching the listening university choir to attempt. When they two sets of singers all join forces and achieve this without putting undue stress on their breathing and without letting anyone’s vibrato widen far enough to fall off its assigned note, the whole room, no matter how large or small, dry or reverberant, empty or crowded, becomes electric. The power of even the faintest pianissimo, when perfectly tuned to the chord of the moment, scintillates in such perfect proportion, one note to another, that involuntary shivers of pleasure run up and down my spine.

The conductor admonishes the singers to embrace the more tender expressive qualities of the passage they’re singing; instead of attack-and-cutoff beginnings and endings to notes and phrases, they attempt to let the notes open and close naturally with the breath. Attack becomes the almost imperceptible awakening sensation of even, steady onset, and cutoff loses its hard artifice in favor of the easeful grace of release. I think that this, too, makes a fine representation of what it should be to live in tune with my fellow beings, to breathe in consonance with them whether we are making pretty and perhaps predictably agreeable chords or exact and shivering dissonances.

This is the gorgeous, staggeringly intense experience of listening to genuinely sensitive music-making, of powerfully accurate tuning. A wonderfully skilled musician will no doubt say that the experience is even deeper for the singers themselves, as the physical sensation can only be intensified when one is physically part of the sounding instrument in this fundamental way. But I have been in those rooms, at times, where the perfectly timed phrasing of notes and passages and the confluence of vibrations are so perfectly aligned that I feel I am no longer a solid object, distinct from all other things, but have become an integrated element of the glittering cosmos. This, I think, is what it means to gain true harmony.Digital illo from a photo: Score

World War Whatever-it-is

"*The* World War." Would that it were so. So many dead that if there's room in the cemetery for an individual marker, it might have only initials, if any identification at all. And more bones on the pile every day, in every corner of the world.

“*The* World War.” Would that it were so. So many dead that if there’s room in the cemetery for an individual marker, it might have only initials, if any identification at all. And more bones on the pile every day, in every corner of the world.

My meanderings in old cemeteries offer frequent reminders that poverty and hunger, natural dangers, and lack of medical advances or resources were far from the only causes of early and numerous deaths among our forebears. Chief among the causes is—and I fear, will always be—ignorance. All one has to do is spy a few headstones marking the graves of persons killed in The War, the World War, or even the so-called Great War to realize that despite terrible, lengthy, massive battles and wars in ages past, our more recent ancestors still believed that one war would ‘end all wars’ and that it was an anomaly. We should be so astute and peace-loving. Instead, we always find new ways to mistreat and murder our fellow beings, and the rate of discovery for cures and self-improvements never quite keeps up with the pace of our ills, let alone outruns them.

Photo: "World War"

“World War.” The End. If only.

The Emperor’s Newest Costume

An Empire never gave good reason why

It ought to rule instead of native sons

And daughters, who, if they survive the guns

And carpet-bombing, still might long to die,

For terrible and bitter is the rule

Of anyone who dares to steal the throne

Of any land or country not his own,

Who often trades a despot for a fool,

Or worse, fool for a despot, and the land

And all its people suffer at the change,

No better, oft enough, and ever strange,

Without the hope and strength to countermand

The awful miseries imposed by those

Who choose to rule as wolves in ovine clothes.

Photo: Flag-waving

Let this be a lesson to us all. Seems to me that flags are better planted in our own hearts and front gardens than on others’ turf.

Foodie Tuesday: A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That

A light lunch is often just the refresher needed to get me through the afternoon. Nothing heavy to dull me terribly and make me too somnolent to get anything useful done after 1 pm, and enough protein and pizzazz to fuel me without being boring. Bits and bites. Snack-sized items. A good mix of the five tastes, whenever possible, and I’m good to go.


Photo: Lunch Bunch with Crunch

A lunch bunch with crunch: homemade sausage patties sauced with spicy balsamic-tomato dressing, bacon chips, apple-almond truffles, bacon chips, and cardamom-maple yogurt.

Having a couple of friends over for said lunch is a fine time to practice this method, not only because it allows for a variety of preferences to be served but also because I know that many of my friends have the same wish to stay awake and productive in the afternoon but without losing out on a quick collation of varied treats.

Photo: Blackberry Chia Pudding

Blackberry chia pudding is a terrific happy-flavored dish for any meal of the day. Doesn’t need much more than pureed fresh berries, water, honey, a pinch of salt, and chia seeds to make my mouth cheer right up for the afternoon.

Today, it was a combination of savory quinoa cakes, warm and served with butter and honey and, for salad, one from my ever-lengthening list of sprightly green-and-crunchy ‘nottawaldorf’ salads, this time, cucumber and apple, fresh mint and celery, snap peas and candied ginger all chopped, tossed with a pinch of salt, and dressed with lime juice and ginger syrup. Some sliced Jarlsberg cheese and smoked wild salmon to nibble along with the quinoa cakes, and sparkling water to wash it all down with the equally sparkling presence of my friends.

Photo: Tuna Salad & Co.

Tuna salad is an old stand-by favorite in our household, and it doesn’t have to be sandwiched to please: here, with nut-and-seed crackers, cheese crispies (nothing but slow-melted and cooled flat cheese pieces), a fresh salad, an apple…fun and done.

And for dessert, another happy variant: chia pudding, this one a very slightly thickened slurry of nothing but ripe, sweet strawberries and coconut milk with the tiniest pinch of salt, sweetened with elderflower syrup and pureed thoroughly before stirring in a handful of chia seeds to chill together overnight. Bright, intensely strawberry-fruity, and just the thing to jazz up a super simple lunch. That was already pretty jazzy, thanks to the good company, that is.

Photo: Strawberries and More Strawberries

Really, can there be many things more luscious than perfectly ripe seasonal fruit in an uncomplicated preparation to cleanse the palate and lighten the heart?

Speeding Along

Here I am, moving along at speed again. Feels kind of like we’ve all been sucked into the vortex of time and will get spat out who-knows-when and who-knows-where, and in the meantime it’s one heck of a wild ride. But you know, it isn’t boring! I’m just glad I have such good company for the journey among my friends and loved ones. If you do happen to know where I’m headed, please just give me a little nudge in the right direction so my lack of a compass doesn’t get me in too much trouble. Thanks!

Photo: Life Rushes Onward

Life rushes onward. Am I on the bus or in front of it?

The Truth is…

Photo: We All Have Stories to Tell 2I am 100% honest and 90% transparent on my blog. But I write a lot of fiction, and I’ve been known to edit or doctor my work like crazy. I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive. Maybe it’s because the intent is never to mislead and deceive, only to get you thinking (differently, perhaps) or entertain you. Maybe it’s because my own thinking is a rare, if not unique, blend of optimism, idealism, pragmatism, logic, guesswork, paranoia, fear, distrust, problem-solving, hope, and magic realism. Maybe it’s only because I’m a big enough fool to believe that I’m being honest and transparent.

Maybe, though, it’s at least a reasonable assessment because I operate with the belief that anyone who reads my posts is clever or intuitive or discerning enough to tell when I’m inventing characters and storylines, when I’m being deeply sarcastic, when I’m illustrating for comical effect, and when I’m trying to be a straightforward documentarian. Even when I’m making up ludicrous fairytales and spouting jocularities while recording my own little adventures and misadventures, I trust my readers to imagine with me the underlying bits of fact, to spot the universal truths and throw out the chaff of willy-nilly silliness. Foolish? Oh, quite possibly. But I prefer to think I’m just cutting everybody the same slack I deserve, the assumption that we’re not adversaries trying to subvert or enslave or otherwise ruin each other but rather fellow travelers and potential compatriots on life’s wandering way.

By the same token, I expect others to grant me grace when I speak my views about the good and the bad in the world, about what I think are healthy and reasonable approaches to understanding and accepting differences and where I think it important to draw a line and say, I can’t accept that idea or action as having any positive or non-harmful purpose in a world populated with imperfect and fragile humanity. Anyone who can’t allow my opinion to go un-insulted is entirely free to leave the room. Press EXIT and don’t look back! But I haven’t had anyone feel the need to do so in a rude way, and that’s the blogging world I find worth operating in; when I go to sites and blogs, to Facebook pages or zines or any other sort of forum, whether it’s one that invites the sharing of ideas and conversations or it’s strictly a pulpit for one person’s views, I am glad to be free to come and go as I please and, if the topic is one that in any way displeases or bores or offends me, to quietly depart and leave the rhetoric to those engaged in it.

On the other hand, I know that there are many (including friends and loved ones) whose thinking and whose opinions and beliefs are so dramatically different from mine that I find it difficult to refrain from civil comments yet I hesitate to leave what I think are slanderous or libelous statements, patent falsehoods, or dangerously misinformed “Facts” and “Truths” standing without challenge, feeling as though I’m slinking off ignominiously and leaving a ticking bomb in the middle of a train station by not offering a clear counter-statement to it. It is not, however, in my nature to enter into debate, no matter how civil. I find it very hard to form and articulate my ideas in a way that I find satisfactory, and am easily cowed into silence by bluster or bullying from opposing viewpoints, so I nearly always tend to “let the Wookiee win” rather than engage in what I’m almost always certain will be not only a losing proposition as a discussion but ultimately, demoralizing for me. Mostly, I’m jaded by past attempts into sensing that those whose beliefs are both loudly and firmly held have no interest in hearing my point of view, let alone considering it as having possible merit.

I was struck by this yet again recently when I encountered a long string of posts from a casual acquaintance who took boldly opinionated stances on several different issues of politics, religion, and social policy that he not only conflated into all being essentially one large conspiracy of evil, crime-backed, world-destroying intent that just happened to, as far as I could see, implicate me personally because the nefarious network he was outing as so hateful included (by name) many people and organizations that I am convinced have quite different, if any, involvement in the acts and policies of which he accused them, and in most cases, act on and endorse things that I find hopeful, helpful, healthy, and humane. But I didn’t think there was the remotest chance he would be anything but dismissive and angry if I were to express the least of my views there. And I was equally sure that he would be hurt, mystified, and convinced that I am not only cozened by the evil empire he hates but probably a brainwashed agent of their horrible intentions of world domination and destruction. So I sit and suck my paws sadly and feel sorry that such divisive attitudes can just bulldoze me like a runaway tank.

It cheers me more than you might guess to return to my friendlier neighborhood here, to be able to speak my mind and show my little pictures where if anybody disagrees, they just share what interests them to share and move on. Where if they question my veracity or accuracy, they ask questions and/or offer useful corrections kindly and without reproach or personal attack. Yes, I make up all kinds of stuff and tell stories that have sometimes have more whoppers in them than any single Burger King franchise. But I never try to hide whether I’m talking sincerely or pulling anyone’s leg for entertainment.

Yes, I edit virtually every photo I post at least a little. But the very act of taking a photo is an editorial process: the photographer chooses what her audience sees, how much of it she sees, from what point of view, and so forth, before ever fiddling with the picture for further artistic or story-driven reasons. And further, in the instances when I’m not making digitally doctored artworks out of the photos for what I believe are fairly obvious illustrations rather than factual expressions, any alterations I do make are attempts to help the photos show what I saw and experienced rather than merely what my camera is capable of capturing and showing, at least given my paltry technical skills with it.

So I stick by my claim: I’m honest and transparent here. But it is my truth, my sense of clarity and my perception of reality that I’m sharing here. I know that nothing I say or do here will change the minds of any who disagree, nor will my posts save any little part of the world. If they save someone from a bad mood for a little while, that’s pretty good. If they somehow manage to make someone who does disagree with me think about what I might think or why, that’s pretty good even though I know my chances of changing a mind are negligible if any. And of course, I could be wrong. If all my posts do is allow me a dash of release while I exercise my creativity and try to suss out my own point of view a shade more clearly, that’s not such a bad thing either. If you’re still here keeping me company when the post is over, now, that is a fine thing indeed. And that’s no lie.Photo: We All Have Stories to Tell 1

Shades of Myself

How Fleeting is My Soul

O, perfidy! that, fugitive, elopes
With all that filled my soul with meanings rare,
And character, and hung up in the air
What history I knew, and all my hopes,
My senses, and my sense, unleashed them all;
Left me unmoored, untethered, in the wind,
Subject to every buffeting, unpinned;
And burning like an effigy, to fall
In ashen flakes and caught in drafts, to drift
Apart from faithless memory, and pine
For everything I thought was Me and Mine,
Now tantalizing from across a rift.
What once defined and marked me as my own
Has fled, and Self has left me quite alone.Digital illo: Egret

Here’s hoping that there are cures, or at least tremendous strides in treatments for, Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia in the near future. And even before then, greatly improved support for those who suffer from these sorrows, whether as patients or as patients’ caregivers.

Foodie Tuesday: I’m Over the Moon When I Eat with Friends

What an intriguing lunar week! Perhaps it’s just my own lunacy—a topic my friend and I did discuss over our lunch, omnipresent and manifest as my oddities are—but it seems there was also a kind of mystical confluence in having the Chinese mid-Autumn or Moon Festival (中秋节 Zhongqiujie) occur this year in sync with the rare and magnificent super blood moon darkening to a deep red Sunday night in the wink of an eclipsed eye and then reappearing in a dazzle of wakening glory as the earth’s shadow passed moments later. Such a magic show seemed the perfect nod of returned affection from the moon being traditionally admired and honored in the Festival.Photomontage: Super Blood Moon 2015But of course, as with most Festivals worthy of the name, food is an important element as well. I am very happy to celebrate Zhongqiujie, too, if the millions of other celebrants don’t mind my joining in, since as a celebration of nature’s bounty is also recognized with fine edible festive offerings. My lunch companion, being aware of both the Festival and my avid eating proclivities, arrived in proper Chinese form, bearing lovely gifts for the occasion. As if keeping me company isn’t gift enough.

I wasn’t being especially complicated with the lunch, opting for my usual preferred mode of fix-ahead and easy dishes to allow maximum visiting, but I did prepare a couple of items of which I’ve grown quite fond lately. The first of these is a cool-green-crunchy-things salad inspired by this summer’s find on a Boston pan-Asian restaurant’s menu, where a lunch salad of thinly sliced Granny Smith apples, chicken breast pieces, and cashews was accented with just a few very thin slices of onion and a handful of cashews and dressed with the lightest possible rice vinaigrette. So refreshing, so clean and uncomplicated, that I knew I would have to take the idea home.Photo: Green Crunchy Salad

The version I made for this lunch comprised the starring green apple slices, equally thin cucumber slices, and chopped sugar snap peas, and was lightly dressed in the juice and zest of fresh limes mixed with ginger syrup and a tiny pinch of salt. I couldn’t help but keep to the green theme and substituted for the cashews a handful of pistachios. If I had any on hand, I think a sprinkling of snipped fresh cilantro would not be amiss here, either, but it wasn’t too hard to take the salad as it was. I ate it three meals in a row. There. I said it.

The rest of the meal was equally easy. I had been craving macaroni and cheese, but in the last couple of months’ realization that wheat does not seem to agree with my digestion, and my not having settled on a wheat-free pasta that I’m impressed with (especially after the first heating has died down), I couldn’t see any legitimate excuse for making true mac-and-cheese that would surely end sadly for me. It did occur to me, however, that these days anybody longing for GF versions of numerous dishes turns to cauliflower, if they’re not cruciferous-veg averse. My spouse, poor thing, is. Me, no. I can eat more of those vegetables than might even be good for me. Especially now that I’ve discovered Crack & Cheese. Yes, I merely chopped up a head of raw cauliflower into an oiled casserole, poured the fixings for my standard oven-baked mac & cheese over the top of it, and baked it covered at about 300°F/149°C for around an hour or so and then browned it under the broiler briefly before serving. If you do like cauliflower, it’s a heck of a dish all on its own. Buh-bye, unattainable wheat pasta.

What else did we eat? Crispy pulled pork; some of my last slow-cooked batch that was frozen in one-meal hunks, fried under cover in bacon fat, is kind of irresistible if you are a fan of the pig. Little quinoa ‘muffin’ cakes, also warmed out of the freezer; these are just cooked quinoa seasoned with smoked paprika and diced pimientos and mixed with egg and shredded cheese to hold them together in the nonstick muffin tin while they baked. Shocking, I know: a high-fat meal! Me! Yeah, right. But it was tasty.Photo: Crispy Pork, a Quinoa Cake, and Crack-&-Cheese

I hadn’t, however, gotten so far as to plan any dessert. Enter my good friend, bearing Moon Cakes. I have heard of these for years, seen them in any number of pretty displays in Asian bakeries and stores, but had never gotten around to trying them. More’s the pity—but better late than never! I was rescued from my ignorance (or have I now been ruined by finding out what deliciousness hides in those artful pastry cases?) by the offering. And, as these were made with lotus seed filling, a very lightly sweet and marzipan-dense delight inside the pastry, and blessed with a double-moon of salted egg yolk, I was entranced by the look, the taste, and of course, the knowledge that I was embarking on an undeniably lucky year to come, thanks to the gift. And to the giver, who like all the best guests, was a grand reminder that the greatest joys of a good meal are in the company, the atmosphere of the occasion, and the unexpected pleasures of good fortune afoot.Photomontage: Moon Cakes

You Say Metanoia, I Say Paranoia (Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!*)

(*…and here I go abusing another great song lyric for my own humorous-slash-nefarious purposes…sorry, Gershwin boys!)

Eschatology, doomsday, survivalism, hoarding, isolationism, and prepper lists. I’d say that Americans are world champions at fear-mongering and xenophobia, but if I take the slightest look at the news I can see countries and territories everywhere that are also writhing in terror and pain over not only who owns what but who can have access to it, ‘earned’ or not. The very concept of countries and territories, of course, derives from the native human us-vs-them identification/classification that lends itself so easily to the fright, anger, and defensiveness (or offensiveness) that never fades when it comes to insiders, outsiders, patriots, infidels, and our whole complicated scheme of morality and ethics, never mind of property and propriety. The online world is a reflection of the IRL one.

While my own experience of online life—and I thank you all profusely for this—is entirely positive, full of thoughtful, generous, and creative community regardless of our differing backgrounds and opinions and experiences, some of those kinds of differences are expressed at times with more than a little assumption that our natural finitude as humans is coming to a corporate conclusion in the near future. Not just those near futures that are already past, those implosion-and-armageddon predictions derived from interpretations of the Mayan calendar or spiritual texts or the signs in NASDAQ trends that have sailed away into the mists of history, leaving relatively small ripples in their wake, there are always financial, political, religious, social, or natural predictors and people who interpret them to mean that the End is [VERY] Near and only those who are well stocked with the prescribed stuff and attitudes will survive and prevail. I certainly can’t prove otherwise.

You can find online guidebooks and lists all over the place telling you precisely how you should think, act, and stock up your bunker in order to be among the safe, comfortable few who rise above the disaster, whatever each author assures you it is. What is strikingly absent in 99% of what I’ve seen and read in these benevolent directives that purport to teach you how to outsmart and outlast everyone else is humanity. When it does appear, usually in reference to buying or bartering, it’s often assumed that anyone else who survives the disaster is no more peaceable or non-threatening than the author of the present document, who often lists guns and ammunition among the first items to stock in quantity and only much later, if at all, includes things like rice and beans, a kit of medical emergency basics, or sewing supplies. I find it somewhere between mystifying and hilarious that many lists I see are full of things like power generators from people who purport to favor complete and off-grid self-sufficiency, and pitiful that highly processed fuels designed for machine use come to mind as people are compiling these lists far before they get around to mention of fishing gear, garden tools, cookware, or books, the latter of which are often specified only as the guidebooks that were written to prepare for previous world-ends that never happened.Digital illo from a photo: Metanoia or Paranoia?

All I can say in response to this sort of thing is, how sad. Wouldn’t my first and best hope be to find comrades and build communities of support? To rediscover the simplest and least dangerous tools, techniques, and materials for living that will secure us, feed us, clothe and shelter and comfort us? And especially, to find endless ways to make music together, ways to grow, strengthen, and enhance the ties that make us able to respect and care for one another, to find joy and hope and love, in whatever new version of reality we find ourselves occupying. Yes, that above all. It will seem idealistic and futile to those who are busy preparing themselves for all-out/all-in war and a last-one-standing universe, but that’s a world in which I do not choose to exist anyway, and if I am to continue, I will only thrive in a world where idealists still do live and love and the known best survival tools are information and communication, the best skills diplomacy, empathy, and compassion.

Foodie Tuesday: The Lunch Bunch

Nobody would really believe me if I said I was much of a lady, but I do have friends who qualify. Some of them will even admit to being my friends! So I had a trio of them over for lunch a few days ago. I’m happy to be in good company of any sex, but whoever my companions, sometimes it’s just dandy to have a little break with a very small group so we can really visit and talk about common interests and the doings of our days. In truth, I also waver between being as polite as I can manage (when absolutely necessary) and being as much the Wild Woman (my friend Celi’s name for females who embrace living fully as our true selves) as time, circumstance, and self-esteem allow. I make plenty of self-deprecating winks and purring demurrals, I know, but my truth is that I think I’m quite dandy. Vraiment.Photo montage: Munch a Bunch of Lunch

Still, part of self-acceptance and encouraging affirmation is surrounding myself with outliers—extraordinary persons—and remind myself that they willingly keep company with me, no matter how many alternate options they have. The vast majority of such persons-of-excellence worth pursuing as companions and friends should lean toward the aforementioned Wild side, regardless of gender, by my preference. That means that no matter what the topic, serious or silly, highbrow or low, the conversation will always be scintillating and memorably informative.

This is an instance where, surrounded by fabulous people, my cookery should be so edible and tasty as to please the palates and invite slow and relaxed dining that never distracts from the camaraderie around the table. Nothing aggressively fanciful and showy, but all (hopefully) easy to eat. I don’t like to feed guests over-complicated stuff at the best of times, or I get all stress-ridden and the attention is diverted to picking tiny bones out of the fish, carving tough peels and rinds off of vegetables, and dividing oversized pieces of food into manageable bites. Food is for sustenance, first, and pleasure next; anything more I’ll happily leave to the multitudes of greater cooks, including many of my favorite friends and guests.

So, what shall I fix when a few of those wonderful friends do come over and lunch with me? The usual DIY-friendly foods that we can all assemble to suit our individual appetites, and uncomplicated flavors that will fill us to contentment without drawing attention away from the deeper comforts of delightful companions and their conversation.

This latest Angelic visitation (I can’t help myself: when we took a few candid snapshots of each other, three of us couldn’t resist hamming it up in a parody of the old Charlie’s Angels pose) had the following lunch menu:

Apple juice-cooked quinoa with smoked paprika, served at room temperature

Roasted vegetables (baby corn, carrots, olives, green beans, tomatoes, and artichokes, oven-roasted with mandarin slices, dried mint leaves, black pepper, and coconut oil), also served at room temperature

Fried cheese cubes (we all agreed these addictive little nuggets were the highlight), warm

Crisped zucchini-potato cake pieces—used like croutons

Quick cucumber pickles: fresh diced cukes preserved in leftover dill pickle juice sweetened with honey and sprinkled with added dill

Balsamic vinaigrette (just avocado oil, balsamic vinegar, a jot of honey, salt, and pepper) to dress any or all of the other main-dish ingredients

Assorted sparkling waters and pomegranate juice, plain or mixed

Assorted trifling truffles for dessert

Mix, match, and meet with mirth. That’s my favorite Lunch on earth. See that? Free poem with every lunch chez moi.Photo: From the Lunch Lady