Pear & Fennel Crumble: A Gentle Search for Roots
The soul wants for silence, now when grief shutters our smiles. Words seem starved, fallen like us, runaway with by cold committees, drained and riddled under management of Opinion. All this may leave the space bar blinking like a lonely beacon, an un-penned note of sympathy looking paltry. Some will make war and I wish not to make war with my words.
I have been praying for a community of silence, no less present, no less alive to suffering, but considering and steady around the teapot and the broken bread.
My opinion, my stance, on what we should do about the terror and death we are witnesses to, is not important. My love is. If something is to be done NOW, let it be the hard and powerful work of silence and small things. It is no mean feat to face our fear with silence, it is beyond tempting to fill that wounded void with action, with recommendations, and qualifiers. Anything at all save silence. I can accept that these thoughts too look like opinion. Of course we don't want to stay silent in the face of unjust and violent acts against the innocent. Silence isn't about letting bad things happen out of cowardice or ambivalence, because silence is not always about the absence of words.
"We say we want to strike against terror, we want to destroy terrorism, but do we even know where to find it? Can we locate it with a radar? Can the army find terrorism using it's night goggles and heat sensors?...To uproot terror, we need to begin by looking at our own hearts. We don't need to destroy each other, either physically or psychologically. Only by calming our minds and looking deeply inside ourselves will we develop the insight to identify the roots of terrorism." - Thich Nhat Hanh
Finding the roots of a thing, a gentle and curious task. Digging down to the tenacious limbs of our fear and acknowledging it might help us to move that fear past self-absorption and into self-giving. Perhaps one of the roots of our fear is the fear of death. But how can something which is natural and inevitable, life giving to life, be used as a threat or a bargaining tool against us? Our death does not need to belong in the hands of violent men. It belongs to us as we continue to give it meaning with the strength and compassion of our days, and the depth of our thoughtful nights. Our death belongs to us and to the Spirit from which it flows. I am glad that I don't have to worry about protecting something which I will certainly lose, for it takes all of my energies to focus on being in the brilliant and daunting days of now. To be human, to accept the brevity of my time, to be joyful, to make life where there is grief, to hone the skill of wonder- this emerges in the silence.
Not being an expert at sitting still for long periods of time, I find my silence in cooking. Thankfully there are many ways to dig at the roots. A loved one I know turns inward with a holy concentration that results in a number of ingenious constructions, garden beds and bike-powered generators among them. As Thanksgiving approaches the United States, I plan to host my first Thanksgiving in a totally new country. Wish me luck introducing stuffing into a 90 degree day. I am looking forward to a shared meal and a moment of pause. It is going to be a time to root out terror, to be surrounded by people who just make you say, "Thank goodness!" and "Amen" to existence. We will remember and mourn. After looking into our own hearts we may discover that we are not so alone or so endangered as the news would have us believe. If we need help to root out fear...we have it.
May you have a peaceful and warm day of Thanksgiving, wherever and whoever you might be.
Pear & Fennel Crumble
2 fennel bulbs, stalks and some leaves removed 3-4 pears of your choosing, thinly sliced 1 large leek, thinly sliced until you reach the green stem 1 cup heavy cream 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar 2 Tablespoons butter 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 Tablespoon thyme salt and pepper
1 1/2 cup flour 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed 1 stick of unsalted butter 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 Tablespoon of Thyme
1. A savory and sweet dish. The thyme cuts the sweetness of the crumble beautifully. Something new on that table of old favorites. First, thinly slice the fennel bulbs crossways, being sure to remove the firmer root at the bottom of the bulb. Sauté in a large frying pan with leeks and 2 tablespoons of butter, and a little olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add thyme. When the leeks being to turn brown and the fennel is becoming tender, toss in the sliced pears. Sauté for another few minutes and then remove from heat. Pour this mixture into a 9-inch round pie plate or an 8x8 square pan will also do. Pour cream over the pears and fennel. Now we're talking!
2. Top the pear and fennel mix with the shredded cheese. Next make your crumble in a medium to large mixing bowl. Place four, brown sugar, thyme, and salt in the bowl and whisk lightly to combine.Cut in the butter and with a pasty blender or fork, and work the butter into the flour to distribute. I like to have pea-sized crumble pieces interspersed with more generous butter clumps. Cover the mixture in the pie plate with crumble mixture and sneak some crumble.
3. In a pre-heated oven, 350 degrees, bake crumble for 30-40 minutes or until the crumble is a nice golden brown on top and there is some cream bubbling happily from beneath. Share around a friend-filled table with some French wine and joyful abandon.