Postcard from my mid-30s:
Parsley & Walnut Pesto
July 2, 2022
I spent the first three weeks of my thirty-sixth (not my thirty-fifth, as I’ve learned) year of life more or less somewhere on the sick spectrum. The day after my birthday, I woke up with the sore throat of the century, the inside of my mouth a sickening yellow, tongue furred and covered in white spots. I sequestered myself to my bedroom, but I kept working. I had deadlines. The next day, my brain was a lost rowboat floating in fog and my sinuses were denser than a Tolstoy. I stopped working and started watching season one of The Witcher. On day three, it settled its way into my lungs, seeding its territory with cotton balls and occasionally sending out expeditionary forces of phlegm. I finished season two of The Witcher.
The next day, my brain was a lost rowboat floating in fog and my sinuses were denser than a Tolstoy.
In my lungs it stayed, lingering long past days four and five, accompanied by staccato bouts of coughing. Was it corona*? My acupuncturist seems to think so, in spite of every negative test I took.
Yes, I have an acupuncturist. I also have masseuses (plural), a bodywork therapist, an osteopath, an energy healer, a Shakti mat, subscriptions to Headspace and Essentrics (quite technically, it’s Mom’s subscription to Essentrics), regularly visit the sauna, take hot herbal baths every Sunday, drink two liters of water a day, and try to do some kind of fitness regimen every morning (with so-so success).
Still, the sole of my left foot is strained, my back and shoulders constantly ache, my hips are tight, I have an iron deficiency and hormonal insomnia and a stubborn patch of eczema, my eyesight has deteriorated rapidly over the last year, and I’ve strained some ligaments in my wrist that hurt more or less depending on how many jars I’ve opened lately or how stale the loaf of bread I’m trying to slice for breakfast is.
It is a gift to be in an ageing body.
Says the twinge in my back.
The fact is that this year is the first year I’ve ever felt anxiety around my birthday. It’s as if time stalled these last two frozen years, and I woke up in 2022 with a once-again full calendar and thirty-five barreling towards me, stringing thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight, and seventy-three behind it. In principle, I have nothing against getting older. When I turned thirty, I was relieved to leave my twenties in the dust. But there’s something about hitting the up end of this decade that makes me feel like I should have accomplished more, should be further along – whatever that means.
But this line of thinking is not constructive, and what’s that thing about watched pots?
I’ve written very little about food in the last two years, and yet I’ve gotten much better at cooking it. In practical terms, this was likely because going out to eat got taken off the table (literally) during the pandemic, and that meant cooking a lot more, and that meant my go-to rotation of easy dinners got boring very quickly. But emotionally, I didn’t feel the pull to write about food in the same way, and so I stopped defining myself as a person who thinks about food, and in turn became a person who was much better at thinking about food.
What’s the magic combination of doing things day by day and seeing where an open heart and an open mind take you, and putting all your energy and drive towards making something happen?
Thirty-five feels like a crossroads kind of time. And more than that, like big shifts are in the air – both personally and professionally. I’m making choices that will shape the next thirty-five years of my life, and I stop to look as far as I can down each of these roads, trying to suss out the rightness of them, while my body’s increasing aches and pains, the laugh lines etching themselves around my mouth remind me that forwards is always one way, no matter which path you take to get there.
…forwards is always one way, no matter which path you take to get there.
On the other side of my birthday, some of the anxiety has faded. It’s summer in Berlin, when we go straight from desolate May to heatstroke June. A few days ago, I cycled all the way from southern Schöneberg to a picnic up in Wedding, on the northern edge of the city ring. The crowd was an old collection of people, as in, people I’ve known since my earliest days in Berlin over ten years ago. We’ve kept in varying degrees of contact and are of varying degrees of closeness, but no matter when we meet, it’s nice to catch up. This time, especially, after the pandemic had stuck its caesura in those regular interactions. We’d all changed, somehow – and also not changed. We were all, each of us, still us, though we’d meandered down our own paths.
Around the corner from the picnic was the apartment that D and I will be moving into in September, whose kitchen we’ve picked out together, whose color scheme we’ve debated at length. It’s another shift in direction, another path to explore. Another way to keep becoming.
*Update: Turns out it was not corona, because now I have corona…
Parsley & Walnut Pesto
High-ho inflation! I don’t know about where you are, but where I am, parsley and walnut and Grana Padano is a lot cheaper than basil and pine nuts and parmesan. Homemade pesto knocks jarred pesto out of the water every single time – even better when it’s less expensive to make. The only thing I’d recommend not skimping on is good olive oil, since it’s such a present flavor. Also, some people like a garlickier pesto. If this is you, taste the pesto before taking it out of the food processor and add a clove or two more accordingly.
1 cup toasted whole walnuts
3 cups tightly packed parsley leaves
1 cup finely grated Grana Padano
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup olive oil
Toss everything but the olive oil in a food processor and pulse until you get an even, small-grained consistency. You don’t want to go so far as to make a paste. In my food processor**, this is a mixture of “chop” and a few carefully controlled go-rounds with “puree.”
Remove from the food processor and place into a bowl. Add the olive oil and stir. If the pesto looks too dry, add some more olive oil (probably up to ¼ cup should do the trick).
**If you don’t have a food processor, I’m a big proponent of chopping pesto by hand. It takes some time, but you can get the texture and blend and taste just right as you go. If you chop by hand, roughly chop the nuts and the parsley separately first. Next, chop the salt and garlic together. Add the parsley and keep chopping, now add the nuts and keep chopping. Lastly add the parmesan.)