Monday, June 30, 2008


“If you study life deeply, its profundity will seize you suddenly with dizziness…” A. Schweitzer

If I were to distribute my calling card these days no doubt I’d extend forth a collard leaf in silent introduction instead. Who needs a sloppy hash of pronouns, adjectives, and verbs when one spectacularly dignified object says it all? Too much time alone might account for what others view as eccentric biophilia, but I believe I’ve walked this path towards quiet adoration for long and from afar.

For about half of my life, every node of my existence has led back towards a body that I have struggled to accept. Half of half of this time, I’d say begrudgingly so. While loss of mobility has resulted in an interesting hyperawareness of the sensations of movement that can actually be experienced as enjoyable now, it still manages to pierce me with a longing and grief that hollows me out. I have been guilty of juggling several (some questionable) modalities of healing with desperate crazed zeal masquerading as optimism in the clever attempt to swiftly outrun my tears. Not surprisingly rushing towards the hale and the whole ever hopeful to get a quick fix, mostly managed to highlight the distance between myself and other.

But something does happen in the cracks of darkness, in the emptiness of self. And that is that singularly and then a few at a time, the grains of one’s being manage to reorient themselves and find new direction, the miraculous sprout of new growth. Food has been pivotal companion in this transformation. In the early years a relatively shallow understanding of “food as medicine” created a cooking style cramped with the weight of dogma. I looked towards food to fix the broken places inside. As one can imagine a few of my strangest meals were born then. Somewhere a shift occurred in this hungry search and I went from “looking for something” to feed the fragmented-- to seeing and appreciating, which exalted the whole.

About the span of two hands spread wide in wicked delight, this collard green radiates robust vigor. Where does it come from? It is flat like a plate but could it be tectonic scale from a prehistoric reptilian? Perhaps this is solo petal from one reluctant cantankerous brussel sprout or royal plume from emerald green macaw. Do its tributaries wend down to the great blue ocean or burrow instead through strata of soft dark humus? These alchemical cells of light, water, chlorophyll, and sugar divide and build, sacrifice themselves and then die. We are recipients of nature’s bounty and perpetually feasting on the gift of life. It is too much really to put into clear words, this kind of seeing. All I know is that when I look a little deeper- past the visible, the monumental, the cohesive, the socially acceptable; I catch glimpse of the unformed, the incongruent, the abstruse, the ambiguous and the holy. And it is in this quiet misinformed place where life is born wildly beating ready to spring free.

Collard Wraps: Coming off of my last post on layered constructions, I’ve been a bit obsessed with wraps inside of wraps, puréeing and pesto-ing every veggie/herb I can get my hands onto, and lots of color. I have always reduced my collards to a shredded olive heap on the plate but have been inspired to use leaves whole as a wrap for burrito/dolmas/sushi style fun. Raw foodies use the leaves uncooked, but nutritionally I understand that heating increases the availability of nutrients. Plunge the greens in boiling water to retain the vibrant color and texture. I went a little too long (started to turn olive colored) and found the greens slippery, challenging to make clean bites out of.

Collard leaves cleaned and stems notched out
Toasted nori sheets

Cauliflower Filling: inspired by Melody @ MELOMEALS RAW CHALLENGE
½ cauliflower head destemmed and cut into florets
2 garlic cloves
1/3 jalapeno deseeded
3 sundried tomatoes
½ C toasted walnuts
1 ½ tsp curry
1 tsp Bragg liquid amino/ tamari
3 Tblsp olive oil
Small handful of cilantro
Smaller handful of raisins

Direction: Get water boiling in a heavy medium sized pot and plunge the leaves in a few at a time for approximately 30 sec. As mentioned above I went too long and would next time take them out when they achieve the bright green color. Have a bowl of cold water ready to douse the blanched leaves and blot dry. Finish how ever many leaves you want. I made a slew of wraps for the week. Toast nori sheets over a hot pan until the seaweed starts to curl and buckle a bit, can brush sesame oil over before and salt a bit afterwards. Put aside. Blitz the entire filling ingredients and taste. Hmm, this is interesting but like I said I’ve been sticking everything and anything into my processor… Take a leaf, dry it if necessary; place a nori sheet on top and then a few spoonfuls of the cauliflower filling in the middle. Fold the lateral sides of the leaves in on each side and then roll up like a burrito/eggroll. You may need to experiment with filling/leaf ratio or the need to cut in half. I found some of my rolls horrifyingly sloppy and the filling does tend to tumble out. All in all very interesting! If this doesn’t interest perhaps a brown rice/avocado/marinated tofu/ume paste filling would be nice. Go crazy.


Lucy said...

Oh, yes.

It's the seeing rather than looking that makes all the difference.

What a beautiful post. So full of life.

Go crazy, I shall. The moment I can get my hands on some of those dratted impossible-to-find in-the-southern-hemisphere collard greens. And three cheers for food processors, I say.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Honestly, I've never thought to use the collard leaves as wraps -- perhaps a bit too bitter for my taste that way. I too always reduce them to an olive green blob on the plate, sometimes with garlic, or onions, but always the green blog. Time to try something new, I think.

Callipygia said...

lucy- I love those moments when things just flip and you suddenly see things very differently. Wow. As for the collard, they're so sturdy I should fold some into "airplanes" and float them your way!

lydia- well I still love the olive green blob too, tho not always the prettiest food. Other things might not be as bitter, but these suckers are so big and sturdy...

Gattina said...

Calli, you are so European in heart! I adore their roll-ups which can be anything... meat, spinach leaves, dough... and why not collard! And you are so clever in using curry in this cauliflower, not too much to be overpower but enough to give it a good kick ?!
how is the summer in your area? hope it's not that rainy... it is typhoon season in HK, but probably we were so used to it and even not notice it :)

sher said...

Thank you for that post. :) And thanks for suggesting collards as a wrap. I grew up eating collards with cornbread, so they are fundamental to me. But, I never thought to use them as a wrap--and why didn't I?

Callipygia said...

gattina- European eh? Good excuse to travel and taste their roll-ups. The weather here has been damp and sludgy, but no typhoons. Be safe and have a great trip!

sher- I can imagine a very good cajun roll up with cornbread/andouille stuffing. I forget that your from down South, need your collards.

Anh said...

Uhm, so beautiful just to imagine how this recipe turns out. We don't have collard leaves here, but I think I can substitute with something else... I miss my greens so much after a week of touring restaurants in Sydney!

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