.

Leah

Aspiring Author

East Rockaway, USA

Leah Fisher is a corporate project manager by day and a wellness writer by night. She has a deep love for her friends and family, traveling, all things outdoors, teaching yoga, and peanut butter, in that order.

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Garbage Pail Salad.

Jan 13, 2022 2 years ago

I simmered with humiliation as Gram insisted on taking challah home from the diner. “Don't make that face. It's a shanda to waste like that mamaleh.” I didn't understand, but I do now. Wrinkly tomatoes become sauce and shriveled blueberries become compote. Gushy strawberries and sparkling wine remnants are summer sangria. Mealy apples and hard raisins become cinnamon-sugar oatmeal bars. Vegetables and fruit are sculpted to remove evidence of decay. You can freeze anything. Fresh spinach, as is. Onions, chopped. Grapes on the precipice of death, make for an amazing late-night snack. Greek yogurt in ice cube trays can use it to make ice-cold creamy smoothies. The pandemic exploded my anxiety. I was alone a lot and food was exorbitant, and mostly delivered, and with so many people suffering, it felt gratuitous to not be appreciative. I exercised freedom in the only way I knew how. Nourishment. I played with textures and flavors. I mixed hot and cold, sweet and salty. Diced bell pepper, mango chunks, tuna, and red pepper flakes. Smoked turkey, white-fleshed juicy peaches, bread and butter pickles. Oatmeal with almond milk and crunchy peanut butter and a soft egg, oozy yellow core dripping. I started with old chipped Pyrex and then, I upgraded. Vintage. An amber-colored etched bowl. I loved the way the sunlight played off its golden hue. I adored its weight. Delicate, iridescent plates, reflecting rainbows on my ashen-stained kitchen table. Miniature blush tinted bowls with the most feminine scalloped edges. Obsession with kitschy cocktail napkins. I hunted. I negotiated. I needed appropriate tools. I often worked through lunch, hunched over my laptop. Occasionally, I had the bandwidth and ability to chat with a friend or family. Whatever my company, I escaped into my creations. I savored. I cherished. During a hyper-stressful time, I allowed myself these few moments of joy. I couldn't explain this to anyone. How could I share that I found a portal into a right-side-up world through my culinary exploration? It felt shallow. Self-serving. Irresponsible. People had lost everything, and I had found respite in candied pecans and vegan mayonnaise doctored with sriracha and chunky sea salt. And so, the garbage pail salad was born. I affectionately titled my mid-day meals as such because nothing in my refrigerator or freezer ended up in the trash. I didn't have a savior complex, I don't, I just had a deep, burning desire to be mindful. Ironically, my meals mildly resembled salads but were mostly not. I felt comfort in knowing that each meal involved some sort of greens and so, the salad descriptor was reasonable. I am an equal opportunist when it comes to greens. Spinach, romaine, butter lettuce, broccoli slaw, shaved Brussel sprouts. I might not fight you for that last bunch of kale, but I'll definitely throw dibs on a meaty bunch of tangy arugula. It feels important to declare this point, to explain that greens were always a part of it. I had become the mistress of food conservation. The queen of combinations. The arbiter of complex taste arrangements. If I went astray, and I occasionally did, I bent my taste buds accordingly. Alexa, what's the quickest way to caramelize fruit? Alexa, what's the best way to store an avocado? Alexa, what's the safest way to defrost cooked turkey meatballs? I've always liked food. I've always been a live to eat rather than an eat to live kind of gal, but this was different. My garbage pail salads became my canvas. My clay. They became an act of self-love during a time when little else was feasible. I couldn't just peel open a yogurt anymore and throw in some granola. That felt rude. Many months have passed, and the world is still weird. There is some modicum of stilted socialization. There are fearless trips to the supermarket. Trader Joes! One can indulge in fine dining. I have every reason to abandon the garbage pail salads, but I don't. I hold steadfast to this tradition, this ritual that I've created and cultivated. I noticed very recently the acronym for my habit. GPS. This makes sense. When it was easy to get lost in the world, I found this odd but most perfect way to get myself back to me. Every time. I drew my own map. A large piece of parchment, meticulously folded, with handwritten scrawl across every inch. Fresh corn cut off the cob, stringy bits included for posterity. Crispy sugar snap peas with the ends still affixed. Lime sprinkled cashews. Hummus with everything seasoning in abundance. Pistachio ice cream drizzled with honey and coated in toasted coconut. A path paved with invention and patience and bravery. Also, humor and a lot of love. That's the thing about being human. Sometimes the world falls apart and we need to find ourselves through therapy or travel or relationships. And then, sometimes, just sometimes, we find ourselves in the most magical and real way, at the bottom of a pre-loved and oft-neglected crystal bowl.

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The Work.

Jun 02, 2020 4 years ago

Ignorance. Privilege. The cost of a life. These are the topics I considered as I sat down to write. It's hard to know where to start right now. Ignoring that we are still in the throes of a pandemic minimizes that reality and all who have and continue to suffer. And yet, the pressing issue of racism and the related unrest in the country seems to require immediate attention. There is no question that we are in turbulent waters and sadly, there seems to be no calming in sight. People are angry. People are divided. People are hurt. People are dying. Through it all, our leadership is fanning the flames of divisiveness rather than encouraging unification. A friend has said to me on more than one occasion that ‘an optimist is merely a pessimist who has had his heart broken too many times.' This sentiment might be attributable to someone else, but its meaning is most important. Beyond the obvious implications, this thought conveys the notion that what occurs around us has a profound and lasting affect that can be far greater and longer-lasting than what is surface level. I feel sad about what is occurring in this country. I feel forlorn contemplating systemic and pervasive racism. I feel horrified witnessing some of the current response. I am not caveating or disclaiming when I explain that I am not judging, nor am I condoning. I know that I do not believe violence is the answer. I also know for certain that I have no idea what it is like to be a person of color in a country that is plagued by racism and discrimination. This is simple. The murder, degradation, and injury perpetuated on and against people of color in this country is heart-wrenching and sickening. It's time for it to stop. The destruction and harm caused to property, businesses, and people, is tragic, devastating, and unnecessary. 100,000 lives lost is a staggering figure. The media's desire to mostly publicize the negative to support an agenda is disappointing. The inability of many representatives to put country before party and people before schemes is mind-boggling. The lack of accountability that has infected our society for decades and our inability to break free of certain paradigms, no matter how little they continue to serve us, is confusing. So, what now? What do we do in the middle of a pandemic as we watch our country burn around us? Well, now we start to do the work. This work is challenging because it is fairly intangible. It's difficult because it is different for everyone, so no universal standard exists. It can seem impossible because it requires patience, courage, and determination. The work means being uncomfortable. It means taking responsibility. It means holding each other accountable. It means asking tough questions. It means acknowledging and putting a spotlight on the broken parts but also making room for the goodness. It means standing up for what's right. Every single time. No matter what. The work is not a hashtag. It's not posting on social media. It's not trendy. It doesn't take one day or even one month. The work is a lifelong commitment. The work will connect you to folks you may never have known, but it will also probably lose you some friends. The work is not clean, it's messy. It's emotional. It will break your heart, knock you down, and then help you get up again. Here's the thing. Without some of us doing the work, we are totally lost. If some of us roll up our sleeves, take a deep breath, and dive in, we can find our way to a much brighter future. My father told me this morning that he sees my despair and he knows it well, but wanted to offer the following wisdom: “We've been here before. Our country has been in a place of chaos and pain and darkness. I have witnessed what is seemingly this country being burnt to the ground in the most literal and metaphorical ways. What I have learned is that what has seemed like the end, is never the end. What has seemed like the worst, is never the bottom. What comes from this pain is hope and love. We are in a bad place, but we are also in a unique position to turn it around. But we can't do that without deciding first that all hope is not lost. We must first acknowledge that there is room to grow. So much room. Have faith in the goodness of people. Sometimes it seems like there is more bad than good, but I've lived on this earth for nearly 67 years and I can tell you that just is not the truth.” I can't think of a better message. There's no easy way out of all of this. That's the reality. We each have a responsibility here if we want more. We have to do our part. Buildings will be rebuilt, bodies will heal, hospitals will be reconverted, and graffiti will be washed away. However, we can only truly heal as a country, a society, and as humans, if we decide that that the value of a singular life cannot be assigned a dollar amount, that we are all truly equal under the law and in each other's eyes, and that the work is always worth it. Always.

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