And occasionally we find it. A gem, that is. And we polish it until it gleams, and then we polish it some more. Eventually, we polish it so much we can see our own reflection in it, and this is not necessarily a good thing. Remember Narcissus?
I lost perspective last week. I got caught up in my work. Got too close to it, too entangled in the minutiae of this and that, and by Thursday, I needed out. I went to a farm, took some pictures of hens and collards, saw okra sprouting from the earth, met a woman who is living her ideals, and had lunch with a friend. My heart rate slowed back to normal.
When I woke up the next morning, things were better. I could once again see the forest for the trees.
But I'm afraid I'm wired this way. You may be, too.
So let's make a deal: When we head back into that forest, let's promise each other we'll go slowly next time. We'll pick up our projects, and look at them, and deal with them, and work on them, but we'll do it with a calmer tack. When we forage, and see something beautiful, and upturn rocks, and unearth stones, and find a hidden gem, let's promise ourselves we'll only polish it so far.
That fine, subtle, imperfect layer of dirt and grit, it's good for us.
It tells us we're human. It reminds us we can't be perfect, and that the very act of trying to be can do us all more harm than good.
Recipe for Mixed Mushroom Brisket Soup
I bought a large brisket. Half went into the slow cooker with a jar of salsa for tacos, and the other half I diced up for an earthy, autumnal, meaty mushroom soup. (This recipe served as my jumping off point.) Later in the week, I added leftover rice for one lunch, and leftover white beans for the next. That brisket stretched for days, which made a tough week a little bit easier.
1 pound brisket, about half the fat cap trimmed and the rest left on, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
1 pound mixed mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
2 cans low-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons sherry
In a large soup pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the brisket on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon. The beef will have given off some fat. Before proceeding, see how much fat is in the pot. You want about two tablespoons total. (Add a bit more oil if you have less than that, and if you have more, pour some fat off.)
Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and thyme, and season with kosher salt and pepper. Saute until the vegetables begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms. Saute for 5 minutes longer.
Return the brisket to the pot, and pour in the broth and sherry. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low and simmer, partly covered, until brisket is thoroughly cooked, and the meat and vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour. Serve hot. (If you have leftovers, stretch the soup with cooked rice, barley, quinoa, wheat berries, or beans.)