When I left home to travel last month, it felt like a perfect clean slate: I had just turned in my manuscript; my most longstanding regular freelance gig, with Etsy, had come to a close; and a fledgling romance had unraveled. It was kind of liberating. I had no loose ends, and no compelling reason to stay home. I needed to get the heck out of dodge. As I do every year.
Montana has an irresistible power over me. Something in the combination of those rich, jagged mountains laced with snowfields and receding glaciers, in the completeness of its wilderness. The grizzly bears and the wolves and the moose make the place feel so much more wild, and it makes me feel so much more alive. I don’t know how else to say it except that going to Glacier feels like pilgrimage, and those mountains feel like church to me. I go there to worship. And be in awe. Every year I meet other folks there who come back, again and again, as I do, because it keeps calling us back. It makes me happy to know there are other people who are completely slayed, in the best possible way, by this magnificent wilderness.
After I left Montana, and after a brief but awesome visit with Kelsey in Denver, I was on my own. My travels went from purposeful to drifting. There was a restlessness. I wanted to get lost in the west; to test the limits of my lack of homesickness.
It’s hard to face that open space, Neil Young sings. And there it was. The open space of being in between things. There was no man to return to in San Francisco, there were no freelance gigs lined up, no great project to preoccupy my mind. I had spent so much of this year singularly focused on the making of a book, and that focus provided a great sense of purpose. What next? It’s an awkward moment. A pause. But we all arrive at those pauses. So I took a cautious look at that unease and that restlessness. And I knew it was time to make my way home.
Looking at that open space, that unease, that limbo, somehow was enough. Hello. I see you. It made coming home a little sweeter. Reminded me that there were things that I was excited to return home to. Like my friends. And the magic of September in San Francisco. And all of our fresh produce. I really missed the produce. So here I am, navigating an undefined space in my life, moving towards the start of whatever is next, enjoying a season between two seasons.
SQUASH PASTA WITH YOGURT, PEAS AND CHILE
adapted from Emily Brock by way of Jerusalem
The first week of my trip was spent meandering through the Pacific Northwest and documenting farms for my cookbook. I stopped in Olympia to visit with Emily of Board and Bread. We picked blueberries from the u-pick fields behind her home. She made me lunch. Honestly, there is nothing more kind or appreciated than getting to eat a home-cooked meal while traveling. And I loved her clever use of squash in place of pasta in this recipe from Jerusalem. At the end of the summer squash season, when you might still have a surplus of squash but are a little fatigued on its flavor, this is the perfect way to put a couple pounds of zucchini to good use.
2 cups yogurt
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1.5 – 2 pounds summer squash of choice
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 – 1 teaspoon chile flakes
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
8 ounces Feta cheese, crumbled
Cracked black pepper
In a food processor, pulse the yogurt, 1/4 cup of olive oil, garlic, and 2/3 cup of the peas until combined. Set aside.
Using a julienne slicer for thin strands or a regular vegetable peeler for wider ribbons, slice the squash. It can be a little tricky. Work around the squash as you make your way towards the center of the vegetable. You may lose some of the squash in slicing. So it goes!
Warm two tablespoons of olive oil In a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the squash and saute until just soft, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may have to cook the squash in two batches.
While the squash cooks, warm the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a small skillet. Add the pine nuts and chile flakes. Cook, stirring often, until the pine nuts are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Set aside.
Add the yogurt sauce to a large mixing bowl. Toss the squash pasta carefully with the sauce. Add the remaining peas, fresh basil leaves, Feta, and the toasted pine nuts. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sea salt, according to taste, along with a generous sprinkle of cracked pepper. Give another careful toss. Best served immediately.