Though the recent Bay Area weather might be telling us otherwise, we're in the midst of winter, which can be a gray time for many of us in more ways than one. This time of year tends to bring me down, and presents its own unique challenges. I'm finding myself feeling sluggish, anxious, and just plain blah. Tasks like writing menus, planning events, or even deciding what to make for dinner become chores as my regular sources for inspiration seem to have gone into hibernation.
My yoga practice seems to be missing that same spark: I'm recovering from an injury, returning to my mat after several long weeks away from it, and learning how to practice without pushing myself quite so far.
Whether in the kitchen or on the mat, the remedy for the winter blahs seems to be the same: turn back to the surefire bets, the strongholds, the fast friends that have been with you as long as you can remember. In my practice, that means doing lots of hip openers and thigh stretches, keeping things simple, and trying to stay grounded, knowing that eventually these standbys will lead to something more exciting.
In the kitchen, that means turning back to all of those foods I know will both nourish and please me, the foods I know I love without question, the standbys that are always good: roast chicken, big bowls of soup and pasta, big green salads with avocado and citrus, and warm cereal each morning.
When Aaron was here over the holidays, we made a pilgrimage to Boulette's Larder
in the San Francisco Ferry Plaza for breakfast one morning, where my friend Amaryll makes porridge worth crossing the bridge for. Hers is made with nine grains and served with walnuts, flax seeds, currants, brown sugar and milk to top as you wish. Much more elegant than the oatmeal (and in some ways reminiscent of the haleem
) I grew up eating for breakfast, this dense version of the cereal fills and warms you all at once.
Last week I was on the East Coast so I made my way to New Haven to spend a few days with Aaron. In the intervening month since we'd seen each other, I found he'd become obsessed with warm cereal as a way to face the snowy day ahead. Where I'd been content to eat oatmeal with a few flaxseeds sprinkled in, he'd become inspired by our breakfast at Boulette's and devised the perfect morning routine of yoga and porridge. Each night, he'd soak his amalgamation of beautiful local grains. In the morning, he'd bring the mixture to a boil, put a lid on it, and place it in the oven for 90 minutes while we did our morning yoga practice.
We'd get up from Savasana (or talkasana
as the case may be) to a steaming pot of porridge, rich with all sorts of grains and topped with perfectly rich Connecticut maple syrup, walnuts and blueberries he'd dried over the summer. I experienced firsthand what I've always known in my heart, that inspiration comes from tradition, repetition, and experience. I'd seen it happen for Aaron, and now he was sharing it with me.
Now back in Berkeley, as I eat my bowl of warm cereal each morning, I consider where in my daily routines a surprising source of inspiration might be hiding, and I know the only way to find out is to stick with the old standbys and believe in the beauty out there.
Whole Grain Porridge
Yields 4 to 6 servings
Use this recipe as a starting place, and then feel free to experiment by changing ratios, grains, and cooking liquid. If you have a slow-cooker, feel free to use it to cook the grains overnight. If not, try this easy, no-stir method.
5 cups water
1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 cup brown rice, cornmeal, or polenta
1/3 cup farro or wheat berries
1/4 cup quinoa or millet
Cinnamon, if desired
Toppings, as desired:
Brown sugar or maple syrup
Milk or soymilk
Dried fruits or nuts
The night before, place the grains, salt, water, and cinnamon in a medium saucepot. Let sit out in a cool place, or refrigerate.
In the morning, bring the grain mixture to a boil while you preheat your oven to 350°F. Cover the pot with a lid and place in the oven for 90 minutes. Go practice yoga!
Return to a perfect pot of warm cereal. Top as desired and enjoy.