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There was an article last week in the NY Times called “The ‘Busy’ Trap” that I thought was perfectly insightful.  Now, a week later, it’s just sort of haunting me.  The author wrote: “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

This clip is how I feel when people tell me they’re busy.

This meme is how I feel when people ask me to do things when I’m busy.

Most of us are operating on the assumption that we will do our work now and live our lives later — when we retire. Why can’t we live our lives right now? Why can’t the work day be shorter and things just move a little slower? I thought someone said there were roses to smell along the way!

When we lived in Jerusalem, I had constant, whiny freak-outs because I wasn’t in school, I didn’t have a “real” job, and I definitely didn’t even own a suit (truth-be-told, I was pretty much wearing pajamas for a straight two years because no one dresses up in Jerusalem). I think my anxiety stemmed from being an “overbooked child/teenager/young adult,” constantly on the move not only between houses but from volleyball to basketball, to Hebrew school, to Sunday school, to piano lessons, to guitar lessons, to volunteering, blah blah blah. And my childhood schedule pales in comparison to my wee brother and sister’s who are not only shuttled among similar activities but who also attend farm camp, robot-building workshops, and will likely be writing computer code before they can legally ditch their bumper seats in the car. They are nine, and they have more “skills” for their resume than I do.

I’m not gonna’ lie: that stresses me out.  But it also worries me. When my little sister was probably six years old or so, she came home from a big day at kindergarten and, when our mom asked if she wanted to do something with her, she replied, “I just want to put my feet up.” I fear that her feeling will remain with her until she retires.

I can hardly recall why I used to wish busy-ness upon myself. Today, I’m in endless classes, reading at all hours of the day, still don’t have a “real job” but I’m certainly “on a track,” and probably should have taken out another loan for the several suits I now own. Although my life is moving forward, happily, my life isn’t necessarily better or more creative or more fulfilling. I really believe it was only during such a “down time” in my life that I found my way to creativity. In the article I mentioned above, the author writes: “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.” I think he is so wise.

Look, this recipe takes time. Making it will force you to “stir continuously,” let things “rest” and not to let things boil too long. Indeed, you have to pay attention and you do need time. You have the time. It might be hidden somewhere, or you might have left it at the park when you were six years old, but you can find it now. It is important for your well-being. If you don’t make the time for this salad, make some time to do nothing, or wait around to do nothing, or take a walk with your kid, or just stare at a wall. Do something that gives you anxiety about everything you’re putting off, smile when it’s over, and you will see, miraculously, that you have somehow survived and your life is still meaningful, if not more. Enjoy!

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What You Need:

Polenta recipe adapted from 101cookbooks

Polenta Croutons (this will make more croutons than you need, but you can just fry them up after and make polenta fries per the recipe linked above)

2 c milk (I used low fat)

2 c water

1 1/2 c polenta

1 tsp salt

oil for frying

For the Salad

4-6 large handfuls of watercress (just put as much as you want!)

Burrata; ripped into golf ball-sized pieces

1 tblsp olive oil

pinch of salt

1 bunch of asparagus; shaved, halved, and blanched

3 tblsp lemon juice (plus a little at the end)

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How To Do It:

Polenta Croutons

Bring the milk and water just to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly stream in the polenta while stirring constantly. Stir in the salt and turn down the heat a bit if needed (you don’t want the polenta to scorch). Continue stirring until the polenta thickens up (see picture); this can take anywhere from just a few minutes to much longer depending on your polenta.

Remove from heat and spread out 1/2-inch thick onto a baking sheet using a spatula (I wish I had made thicker ones — give it a try!). Chill in a refrigerator for at least an hour. Cut into 2″ x 2″ squares (or diamonds, or whatever!).

Bake in a 450 degree oven, middle rack, for 20 minutes or until golden and crispy.  On the stove, heat a tblsp of olive oil over high heat. Fry polenta squares until brown on all sides.

The Salad

Trim off the bottom 1-2 inches of your asparagus and shave about half of them with a peeler. Keep the remains. Halve the asparagus. In a medium sauce pan, bring salted water to a boil. Once boiling, blanch the asparagus for three minutes. Immediately run under cold water to stop them from cooking. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt to the asparagus. Set in the fridge to get cold.

Layer watercress, “croutons,” asparagus, and more watercress. Top with chunks of burrata mozarella. Drizzle some olive oil, salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon and enjoy!


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6 thoughts on “Watercress Salad with Polenta Croutons

  1. Norman Bahary says:

    I enjoyed reading the article you wrote. And I enjoyed reading about your recipe, I am going to try it. On the health issue, I am feeling great. Today I had a visit to my heart Dr. and he told me that all is well and the next time that we meet , it will be just a social visit. So there.

    1. Hi Baba! I’m so happy to hear that! And I’m glad you liked the post. Love you!

  2. this looks lovely. i like the asparagus with the watercress

    1. Thanks, Sina! I really love your blog, by the way!

  3. LucidFood says:

    Beautiful post. Your observations about being busy and waiting to enjoy life until later resonate with me. Our culture worships productivity, and it’s hard not to fall into that trap here, as opposed to somewhere like Israel which has different rhythms, and different values. Thanks for this reminder to meditate, which I’ll do now! -Louisa

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