Learning to throw pots is a lot like learning to ride a bicycle or to drive. It is a very complex activity that is much more difficult than it looks. Experts make it look easy. But when you sit down at the wheel with a piece of clay for the first time, it is very humbling.
I’d been studying with Judy for about a year when I took my first workshop at Peter’s
Valley. I thought I was pretty spiffy, I could sort of center a fist size hunk of stoneware. I could sort of make a small bowl, a form you could call a cup (though some might mistake it for an ash tray). So, as I drove to the clay studio, I was nervous about meeting new people, about my lifelong tendency to need to be teacher’s pet, and about being away from the kids for so many hours, not about the throwing.
Well. I watched Ben work at the demo wheel and felt my brain start to heat up, to sizzle, and then to melt. I went to “my” wheel, and I might as well have had no brain at all. The wheel appeared to spin the opposite way from my wheel at home (in fact it did, it was set for a lefty), the clay felt all wrong, I couldn’t find the right tools, I was completely inept. This predicament persisted for the whole morning.
When we went to lunch, someone asked me, “how’s it going?” I said, “I am a worm. I’m the lowest form of life crawling on the crust of the planet.” For the rest of the five day workshop, my new friends would check in with me, “how’s that worm thing going?” It would come and go, but I learned to welcome what the meditation gurus call “beginner’s mind.” In trying to integrate an enormous new batch of information, I needed to regress, to tear down the structure that was there and replace it with more current data. I needed to allow myself to deconstruct.
Maybe you think this only happens to short, middle aged, visually impaired psychologist-potters. Try parenting! When the kids where tiny, you’d see it often. As a baby, Brian would be miserable for a week. Clingy, weepy, easily frustrated, he’d follow me around like a little puppy, whining. I’d wonder if I’d ever see my sunny, sweet son again. And then he’d wake up in the morning with 5 new teeth. Or toddler Megan would decompensate constantly for days on end. Not sleeping, having meltdowns at the slightest frustration. And then, she’d start speaking in full paragraphs or suddenly learn to walk.
And don’t get me started talking about what happens when my 78 year old mom tries to learn something new on Zelda (her ipad). Or with my clients in the dr deb office! My beloved friend Karen is preparing to teach high level couple’s therapy and is convinced she has forgotten how to work in her therapy chair! Let’s just say, things often get worse before they get better!
So I think it makes a lot of sense for all of us to have a lot of room to let ourselves fall apart a little bit as we move along in life…to tear down in order to build up. And to be comfortable with the experience of being a little messy, disordered and confused.
And so, in the spirit of doing this, I offer you the concept of deconstructed food! My two favorite deconstructed dishes are chopped liver and stuffed cabbage. Yes, I am messing with the traditional meals of my heritage. I’ll give you a picture of the unchopped chopped liver-it’s not beautiful, neither is chopped, chopped liver. But it is really wonderful. If you want the recipe, leave me a comment. Or leave a comment anyway because I really like them!
I’m going to give you the recipe for the unstuffed stuffed cabbage. Not only will it make you more comfortable with falling apart, but it is also much easier to make than real stuffed cabbage and I think it tastes just as good!
I have Wendy to thank for this idea!
And yes, my veggie friends, you can leave out the meat; it’ll be great! You can sub tofu or bulgur, throw in some nuts for protein, this is a very casual dish, meant to be modified to your tastes or food preferences. Note: it is gluten free!
Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage
AKA Unstuffed Cabbage
Traditional stuffed cabbage includes rice. You have a couple of choices here. You can go low carb like we do and leave it out entirely. Or you can throw some rice in with the tomatoes (I’d use a half a cup or so). Or you can make it like I do and then serve it over rice, either white or brown. Or do a different grain. Am I giving you too many options and making your head explode? Sorry!
1 medium head of cabbage (if you have a huge one, cut off a bit and make slaw)
1 big or 2 small onions, large dice
1 tbs. oil for cooking (peanut, walnut, coconut)
1 lb. ground meat (I like turkey or chicken, organic; you can use beef or pork)
1 apple, peeled and cut into chunks
1 can diced tomatoes, I like Muir Glen
handful of raisins
sweetener to taste (a big pinch of organic cane sugar, you can use honey or brown sugar)
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
Cut the cabbage in half, core it, and cut it up into bite size chunks. Use a big pot and heat the oil over high heat, add the cabbage and onions. Throw a little salt into the pot now.Then the meat. Brown everything up a bit. Add the apple and cook for a couple minutes. Then throw in the tomatoes and raisins. Now, you can keep this on the stove, turn the heat down to keep it at a simmer. But my preference is to bring it to a boil and then pop it in a 325° oven. I just feel more comfortable going out for a run with something in the oven rather than on a flame. Either way, cook it for a good hour. It won’t be ruined if you cook it longer, the cabbage will get softer.
Now taste. Add your sweetener and lemon juice. Remember that all your flavors will be stronger with a bit of salt, so if it tastes wimpy, add a bit of salt before you add more sugar.
Like all stewy things, this makes great leftovers. You can reheat on the stove, in the oven or in the microwave. It freezes pretty well, with only a minimal change in the texture of the cabbage. You might notice that in one of the pictures, I threw in some leftover brussels sprouts, for a sort of double cabbage effect. Very nice! And finally, a little sour cream on top never hurts!
You may find, if you make this and eat it, that it prepares you for learning new things and for dealing with stress…like, for example, during the holidays…
Deb, I love this post. Everything from the “you have to deconstruct before you can construct” to the “beginner’s mind” to the child development pinball zigs and zags. And especially “So I think it makes a lot of sense for all of us to have a lot of room to let ourselves fall apart a little bit as we move along in life…to tear down in order to build up. And to be comfortable with the experience of being a little messy, disordered and confused.” Yes, I definitely need to remember that. Oh yeah, also the lush photography. And the recipes! (I’d love the chopped liver recipe.) Thanks for a thought-ful and profound piece.
Carole, you are such a gifted writer, I am honored that you enjoyed the piece. It would be my pleasure to send you the liver recipe. I’ll write it up soon!
Love the photos Deb. Especially the one of the head of cabbage. Also, I didn’t know about a pinch of salt helping to bring out the flavors or popping a stew into the oven rather than simmer on the stove top. Thanks for sharing. (Notice that I used my own id this time. 🙂 )
Mary, my beloved friend and guru of all things cyber. You even whipped Momputer into shape! I’m so glad you learned a new thing or two, that makes me happy. So glad we’re sharing Thanksgiving together! 💙💙💕