June 15, 2015
It’s been a while. I dove right into crazy town and am just now coming up for air. In the past three weeks, some things happened: Like fine balsamic, I aged another year. My mother, grandfather, and littlest brother came to visit Berlin for a time, and we smashed the town – boating down the Spree, petting the goats in the zoo, touring the hidden depths of the Bundestag, and eating and eating and eating. Of course I was deathly ill for a time, during which there were massive deadlines at work. And on the other hand, we finally got chairs for the apartment. They’re blue and beautiful and I love them. I went to Greece, I rode a donkey, I came home from Greece, and now I’m here at my desk, watching a quickly fading dusk shutter the daytime sky.
It’s both a blessing and a curse to be back in routine – well, ish, since the work week hasn’t really started yet, and I came home to David’s visiting friends on the couch and a spontaneous trip to Mauerpark to grill, which was rained out by thunderstorms, and today we had lunch in the TV tower like tourists in our own city. So there’s that. And then there’s the specter of responsibility that hovers here – I left my calendar and its to-do lists sitting on my desk, and they’ve greeted my homecoming with reproach for having neglected them for so long.
Today, the only reasonable thing to do has been to keep ignoring them. Instead, I swept the floor a few times, which always just seems to shift the dust from one room to another. I lay in bed with an icepack on my head and moaned about my humidity headache, trying to nap and restlessly jumping up from bed again. And finally I cooked. There’s strange food in the fridge – old yogurts and a half-eaten pomegranate, mildewed limes. I’m not quite sure what David’s been eating while I’ve been gone. Döner from that place around the corner, perhaps.
But like that game in which we always pack the same things in our proverbial suitcases, my pantry always has a few standards: bulgur wheat, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, and strange, old, salvageable bits of food. Carrots with rotting ends lopped off, a sad, shriveled shallot, a lone corner of feta, a few forgotten fronds of dill, and some surprisingly firm, sweet cherry tomatoes. Why do I tell you this? You’ll never come to dinner now.
Someday, I’ll write down a recipe for bulgur salad, but the real trick to it is to never make it the same way twice and only make it out of desperation, using up what needs to go and sloshing it all with oil and acid and plenty of pepper and salt. Today, for instance, I had lime juice, savaged from the rotting fruit, which replaced the lemon I typically use.
Somehow there’s consistency in its inconsistency. It’s always good – nourishing, solid, refreshing and healthy – even though it’s a grab bag of a meal whose only backbone is nutty bulgur grain. Its strength is in its flexibility.
I could learn a lesson from my bulgur salad, like letting my foggy vacation brain muddle itself out in peace if a headache creeps up, allowing myself to write a blog post at night if the rare evening muse strikes. I shouldn’t be afraid of spontaneity and rolling with the punches – and even accepting that a blemish or a rotten corner isn’t a catastrophe. Most things can be salvaged.
So next week, when I dive into crazy town part two full of the American Midwest and weddings and old, dear friends, I’ll just think: I am the bulgur, the backbone. I’ll absorb the chaos and turn it into something good.