Sunday, February 12, 2012

Happiness and Yellow Split Peas & Greens

I almost got a personalized license plate.

I always thought it was kind of silly -- a bit self-involved and unnecessarily gratuitous. Why would someone want a license plate with a non-sensical message that usually only they can understand? Or, alternatively, a cheesy on-the-nose proclamation that is better left misunderstood?

I cringed when I would see plates that read things like "LuvDave" or "Partyo5" or "PckyEtr" (true story).

Yet when I got my new car a month and a half ago part of me thought it would be amazing if I had its tail branded with "DTakesaB." I might have done it if I had been able to figure out a way to make it 7 characters without losing the integrity of the message. "DTkesaB" just didn't seem like the statement I wanted to make to the thousands of drivers who would pass behind me.

But beyond that, it seemed sort of of odd to put such a definitive label on myself -- to reduce my vehicle and my being to the name of my blog like that's all I am and all I'm going to be for the next 10+ years. It's easy to do, of course. To think of myself in concrete terms like "Diana Takes a Bite," "Quinoa Queen," "hospitality publicist," or even the much-loathed noun, "foodie." Especially since these are the things that other people usually use to define me, to quickly categorize me into something that makes sense in their world.

"Oh you know that Diana, she's a big foodie... loves her restaurants."

And just like that, they've assigned me an identity. Just like when I was in college and was identified with my sport -- "Diana cross-country" rather than simply "Diana," a person.

It was hard for me to find my place after I stopped running competitively. I didn't know how to label myself until I found a new category post-graduation, joining the legions of entertainment assistants who were trying to "make it" in Los Angeles.

"Oh you know that Diana, she's in... 'The Industry.'"

That all came to an end too, of course. I haven't been in "The Industry" for over four years now. The people I met in that world are distant memories from a place and time that doesn't even seem to exist anymore. At least not to the "Diana Takes a Bite" me. The "Quinoa Queen" me. The "hospitality publicist" me.

It's weird to think how quickly things change. How one moment I'm one thing and the next, I'm something completely different. It's no wonder it's so hard to find concrete happiness. It's no wonder that I freak out and start gorging on kale juice and supplements and affix weird seaweed masks to my face the second my skin starts being temperamental. In my head, it's changing how others perceive me. In my head, they aren't thinking of me as a quirky, pretty girl anymore (if they even were to begin with). They are seeing my imperfect complexion first.

The neuroses second.

Today, my church service at Bel Air Presbyterian reminded me that all of these things -- my skin, my career, my blog, even my obsession with quinoa -- are all transitory. They don't define me because they are constantly changing. My skin is constantly rejuvenating (hopefully sooner rather than later).

To rely on these things for happiness is futile. To base my state of contentment on how many blemishes are currently residing on my right cheek, on whether the boy texted me that day, or on whether I ordered the right thing at dinner is as ridiculous as it would be to plaster "DTkesaB" on the butt of my car.

When all of that is taken away, the core of who I am, the person I've always been and always plan to be, is defined by my faith.

It scares me to say that out loud. Part of me wants to go back and delete "faith" and say "heart" or something less divisive and charged. Because even that word comes loaded with associations and categories.

The dreaded label, "Jesus freak."

As much as I want to avoid that association, I know that my faith is what will bring me the concrete happiness that all those other transitory things inherently can't.

This weekend I obsessed over money, whether the gazillion products I'm using on my face are even making a difference, and this yellow split pea salad with cilantro pesto from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day. I gorged on it both yesterday and today and am fully prepared to gorge on it this entire month because it's that good.

Will I still be gorging on it a year from now?

Probably not. A year from now, I'll be spending this weekend obsessing about other things and a different recipe that I can't stop eating. Just like I was obsessing over different things a year ago - an interview with my current employer, how fat I felt from eating out three nights in a row, and Molly Wizenberg's Chana masala.

The only thing that will remain the same a year from now, and has remained the same between last year and this year, is my faith. Therein lies the secret to my forever happiness.

But for today, for this weekend, transitory happiness was found in these yellow split peas.

Yellow Split Peas & Greens
Adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day
Serves 2

Notes: I, predictably, reduced the amount of olive oil in the cilantro pesto, and played around a bit with the proportions of the ingredients so I wouldn't be stuck with a vat of yellow split peas (incidentally, not a terrible thing to happen at all). I used proportionally more cilantro and lemon juice, and reduced the quantity of serrano chile because I wasn't quite sure how spicy it would be. I also added fresh pumpernickel croutons for a bit of a crunch -- an addition I think is well-received by these here split peas. Some other variations to think about - hard boiled egg, avocado, perhaps even shelled edamame. Whatever route you go, you'll want to drink the cilantro pesto. And put it on everything.

2/3 cups dried yellow split peas, rinsed and picked over
1 slice of pumpernickel (or other flavorful, hearty bread) torn into pieces
1/3 cup pepitas, toasted
1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves and stems, rinsed well
2 heaping tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 small serrano chile, seeded and deveined
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup water
Sea salt
2 heaping cups of arugula

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread pumpernickel bread pieces out on a cookie sheet. Bake, stirring once, for 10 minutes or until toasted on all edges.

Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the yellow split peas and simmer, uncovered, for 25-35 minutes, or until tender but not mushy. You want there to be a bit of give when you bite into them. Drain the peas and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Chill or bring to a room temperature.

While the split peas are cooking, make the pesto. Combine the cilantro, half the toasted pepitas, parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, serrano chile, olive oil, and water. Season with salt to taste. Puree using an immersion blender or regular blender or whatever form of blending machine you possess. Continue blending the pesto until comes together into a vibrant green sauce (not unlike this here kale juice).

In a large bowl, combine the split peas, arugula, remaining pepitas, and pumpernickel croutons. Toss with cilantro pesto to taste. Serve and eat immediately.


the actor's diet said...

"Quinoa Queen" - I would flip out if I saw that on the road!

sarah j. gim said...

none of these would have entered the equation if you stuck with DHo from the get-go

Ashley said...

Well said, Hoss (said lovingly).

Banana Wonder said...

Ah, D you are making me feeling like such an A hole for getting a license plate... yes "NTOMATA" aka the Greek word for TOMATO. I felt so happy to have my car and that it was my pet and it needed a name tag :P Anyway, I am totally digging your salad and you can't say no to any kinds of greens and peas. Always so good and usually good for your skin :P I'm coming back to LA in March for a week so hopefully we can hang out!

LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! said...

love happiness in split peas ;) would have been so cute if you could have gotten a DTakesaB license plate! :)e

Gastronomer said...

Impermanence is a very freeing concept!

Free yourself, sister!

NathantheQuinoaKing said...

My license plate: ICU81MI. Hilarious, right?

Diana said...

Lynn - Maybe I'll try it for my next car... ;)

S - Truth.

Ashley - Thank you (said lovingly)!

TALF - Aw shucks! I honestly was inspired by you to want to get one in the first place! I bet you totally rock your plate! Plus it's not like your Greekness is ever going away... ;)

Nastassia - It would have been fun! Maybe I'll just tattoo it on my ass. Lol.

Nathan - No clue, oh perplexing one.