Here's what I've learned, not that you asked. I've learned that when opportunities arise for you to learn about A, or accomplish B, you often come away with C, which is so much better than both A and B it's not even funny.
In other words, when you're invited somewhere professionally, go. Not necessarily for that opportunity itself, though that might be great, too, but for the spin-off opportunities it may lead to down the road. Maybe years down the road. Maybe decades down the road.
And I'm not a karmic person; not at all. I don't believe that everything happens for a reason. But some of my greatest professional experiences have happened because of other events to which they were tied by the flimsiest of threads. And they wouldn't have happened otherwise. So you need to keep finding more threads. Spools and spools of thread. You've got to go to where the threads are, because eventually one them is going to lead you someplace very good.
I met Clare at a food writing symposium in 2008. She was not on the Panel. She was not one of the Speakers. She was not an Agent or a Publisher or an Editor. She was a fellow writer, just like me. But this woman has actually done more to further my career than any of the big name folk I was ostensibly there to impress. Does she know it? I'm not sure. But she does now.
She emailed me a few weeks ago, saying she was obsessing over a spiced chickpea side dish we'd had at a recent conference. She'd re-created it at home, and sent me her recipe. I played with it further, adding some tomatoes in red, green, and gold, and tossing in coconut milk, fresh mint, and a smidge of sugar.
This is Clare's salad, re-stitched by me.
Find a sturdy thread. If it frays, fix it. And roll it out long for others to find.
Recipe for Garbanzo Bean Salad with red curry and tomatoes
Garbanzo beans are woefully underutilized pantry ingredients, in my very humble opinion. In this salad, they star alongside fresh summer tomatoes and a handful of Thai flavorings. Healthy, quick, and tasty. Nothing more, nothing less.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (from a jar; found in the Asian aisle of most supermarkets)
1/4 cup light coconut milk
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed well
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3/4 teaspoon sugar
3 small tomatoes, any variety (mixed colors look nice), chopped
In the bottom of a large salad bowl, whisk the red curry paste, coconut milk and lime juice until very smooth. Season with cumin and salt.
Stir in the chickpeas, cilantro, mint, sugar, and tomatoes. Give a final stir, and serve immediately, or allow the flavors to meld for a few hours in the refrigerator.