The book sat on the edge of my desk for months. Amazon packaged it poorly, so the paperback arrived with its cover mangled, and it irritated me. To exchange it for a pristine copy was my option, of course, but that seemed like more trouble than it was worth. I finally picked up the book to read in July, and it changed me.
The title page says it thusly: Everything That Remains – a memoir By The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn with interruptions by Ryan Nicodemus.
I recommend the read, of course, or you can visit The Minimalists web site by clicking here. May you experience a profound paradigm shift, yourself.
But I’m about food. There is a tie-in coming, I promise.
So I read the book, and I wondered what life could be like with much less stuff. Then Kai the Husky, in a low period of his intensive heartworm treatment, relieved himself of diarrhea on my living room rug to the extent that the rug was not salvageable. My husband and First born grimly rolled the heavy 12×15-foot carpet and carried it out to the curb for disposal by city trash crews. I lost two lamps in the process, because their cords had snaked under the rug, and now there was no place to hide the wires. Realizing that two elderly dogs in the house would make nasty clean-ups a regular issue, we donated the rest of our area rugs to a Goodwill store and blocked off the wall-to-wall carpets with temporary gates.
The pared-down results looked a little stark, but we liked them.
Then Bruiser the Chihuahua came down with a bad case of fleas, and the fleas hopped off of him and set up camp in our lovely abode. The invasion became more than our monthly vet-supplied flea treatments and flea shampoos and flea-killing tablets could handle. We called in the big guns, a pest control company that sprayed toxins in our home and at Bruiser’s, and we vacated the premises for hours while the killing commenced. My handblocked, silk throw pillows went to the dry cleaners, and boxes of things from our closets were deposited in the garage. Culling reduced what came back inside, and the usable remains went to Goodwill. My silk pillows didn’t survive the dry cleaning process and ended up in the trash.
The pared-down results looked a little stark, but we liked them. (But, dang, I miss those pillows.)
I was pondering the timing of reading this book combined with the mystical ways of the universe and the power of nature and, by golly, the omnipotence of God and His efforts to streamline my life, when something scampered across the ceiling on the attic side. First born heard it. Then I heard it another day. By this time I knew better than to procrastinate. Family members and a daughter’s boyfriend dug into the hot, dirty work of transferring the attic’s contents to the garage below. When it was over, there was no room to park a vehicle, and the trash bins overflowed. Goodwill got another carload of donations, and the city’s boom truck came by to pick up a big pile of cardboard boxes and one orphaned iron bed rail.
The wildlife removal specialist who inspected the attic found evidence of rats tunneling through the insulation. A one-way trap with a door to the outside was installed yesterday under the eaves at the most likely access point, and every other weakness in our attic’s perimeter was barricaded with screens. This is war, phase one.
So, what to feed hot, hungry people after they’ve trekked up and down a rickety ladder hauling dusty, dirty boxes in an attic purge? This hearty, tasty Asian dish. There were no leftovers to store.
Green Pepper Steak with Tomatoes (adapted from “Wok Around the Clock,” a booklet of recipes included with a long-gone electric wok, © 1977 Northland Aluminum Products, Inc.)
(I use a 16×12-inch electric skillet to make this dish, which feeds six. The recipe is easily reduced to feed four and can then be made in a large skillet on top of the stove, if you prefer.)
1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut against the grain in 1/8-inch slices (To make thin slices easier to cut, freeze the whole chunk of meat for 30-40 minutes first.)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
- a couple of pinches of freshly-ground black pepper
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly-grated ginger root
1 large garlic clove, grated
2 tablespoons black bean garlic sauce (The original recipe calls for fermented black bean paste, which my local grocery store doesn’t stock. This jarred sauce is more readily available, and it works fine.)
Grape tomatoes, sliced in half (I used a 10.5-ounce container. If you have delicious, homegrown tomatoes, slice several into wedges and use those, instead.)
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in a solution of 3 tablespoons water and 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 large green peppers, cubed
6 tablespoons peanut oil for frying
4-5 chopped green onions, to garnish
Cooked rice, to serve
Have all your ingredients prepared, measured, and ready to cook before starting to stir-fry. You’ll be much happier if you do.
Marinate steak slices in refrigerator for an hour or longer in the next 5 ingredients.
Set skillet on high heat. Add 3 tablespoons peanut oil; heat until oil shimmers. Add cubed onion, ginger, and garlic; stir-fry until slightly brown. Add beef and black bean sauce; stir-fry until beef is brown on both sides. Remove contents of skillet to a bowl, and cover to keep warm.
Add remaining peanut oil to skillet and heat. Add tomatoes; stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Stir the cornstarch mixture again to suspend the solids, then add to the skillet. When the sauce thickens, add the chopped green peppers and reserved beef mixture, stirring until the sauce boils. Garnish with green onions, and serve over rice.
♦ ♦ ♦
“I say the universe speaks to us, always, first in whispers. And a whisper in your life usually feels like ‘hmm, that’s odd.’ Or, ‘hmm, that doesn’t make any sense.’ Or, ‘hmm, is that right?’ It’s that subtle. And if you don’t pay attention to the whisper, it gets louder and louder and louder. I say it’s like getting thumped upside the head. If you don’t pay attention to that, it’s like getting a brick upside your head. You don’t pay attention to that—the brick wall falls down. That is the pattern that I see in my life and so many other people’s lives. And so, I ask people, ‘What are the whispers? What’s whispering to you now?'” — Oprah Winfrey (from her Master Class: The Lessons – Trust Your Instincts, at oprah.com)