TAKING TIME TO THINK
“That thinking, if done properly, requires uninterrupted focus; thoroughly developing and questioning assumptions; synthesizing all of the data, information and knowledge that’s incessantly coming your way; connecting dots, bouncing ideas off of trusted colleagues; and iterating through multiple scenarios.
In other words, it takes time. And that time will only be available if you carve it out for yourself.”
– Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn CEO,
on The Importance of Scheduling Nothing
What a relief is is to be able to sit and write without any disturbances and loud noises except for the purring of the air-con and the sound of the keyboard as I type in absolute peace.
The last few weeks have been hectic; a month after returning from my much-enjoyed break in Singapore, I was finally re-settling into the rhythm of the year; I’d returned to hitting the gym thrice a week, resumed weekly cooking classes, as well as started painting again, a space which I had so sorely missed without actually realizing so.
I’d also decided to dedicate more time to this blog, where I’m determined to post at least three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
This of course includes the preparatory work which I so much delight in, but which still takes up time. Things such as thinking of or researching on dishes to cook up, choosing fresh ingredients at the market, taking photographs while the entire process unfolds, and then finally, sitting down in front of the computer (whether it is during lunch time at the office or at home tapping away on Juan’s laptop), and writing.
But I’ll be honest and tell you that while I love writing and cooking and taking pictures, especially since I have finally upgraded my Sony point-and-shoot to a Canon DSLR (thank god!), I find that there are days where I am stressed, and wonder when it was that blogging, something which I so much adore, suddenly transitioned to being a task on my to-do list, a thing I have to check off and whose completion actually results in me breathing a sigh of relief – relief which I didn’t even realize I had been so in need of.
There are days that I stare at the blank space in a draft post, wondering where I would find words to link the pictures of meals I had crafted and stories which I need to tell. Those days are not so bad – at least I know what tales I want to write about. There are worse days though, when I truly start to understand the concept of “writer’s block”, because my mind literally feels like a large dam with pressure mounting behind a huge obstacle.
And between all the activities I cram into my weekly schedule – work, paint class, gym, cooking class, and blogging – I find that sometimes I have little to zero time for myself to think.
I seem to shuffle in and between classes and gym sessions and home and the office – so much activity but none of the necessary moments to settle down quietly and absorb all that is buzzing around. Not even time to read some of the food blogs which I really enjoy, not just for the clear, light-filled signature pictures that leave your mouth watering and your stomach growling, but more so for the deep, sincere writing that is as clear as a conversation you could have with a good friend.
Thankfully, after a long day at work, I decided to treat myself with reading some of the archives from a new-found blog, Not Without Salt, and allowing myself some time to think.
I was mesmerized by the author’s voice; I felt she was my friend; I felt I had come home. I started feeling a slight tingle in my head – I was finally getting my inspiration back – this time to think and relax gave me a need to write like I haven’t felt in too long a time, an appreciation for the quietness around me, broken occasionally by the tango singer belting out melancholic songs which were in fact quite conducive for a pensive moment like now, something I’d been desperately craving but had been so starved off.
Then it surprised me because I didn’t realize that what I required to regain my inspiration was really very simple and easily attainable – I just needed to stop my engine for a while and put things on hold.
This empty space generously gave me an incredible ability to appreciate my surroundings and hear myself think. And reading someone else’s voice whose worries are very practical and reflect some of mine, has allowed me to calm down.
Sometimes we just need something simple, something we don’t usually pay attention to, but something which through its pure simplicity helps us to re-find ourselves.
BASIL WALNUT PESTO & HAM
I made basil walnut pesto and ham spaghetti for dinner one night last week.
It was a Thursday, and no one was home for dinner except me. I had just finished cooking class and arrived home around 1opm, definitely not an early hour to start cooking by most people’s standards.
But I needed to cook.
I needed to combine ingredients and watch them transform, even if it was something as foolproof as processing basil, walnuts, garlic, olive oil, and some salt in a blender, and boiling pasta to hear the comforting bubbling of water.
It didn’t matter that I was tired and hungry and could have given up halfway and just swung by the kiosk below to eat pre-packaged food. I obliged myself to stay in the kitchen and finish what I had started.
It was good. Dinner for one on a Thursday night. By the time I had finished cooking, it was already 11pm, the time most people start tucking themselves into bed. I was just getting ready to sit down to dinner.
Smooth, soft trails of spaghetti, stained a light green by the pesto.
With pieces of processed garlic and walnut clinging to it, intertwined with strips of tasty ham. Beautiful.
BASIL WALNUT PESTO & HAM SPAGHETTI (Serves 2)
1) 1 bowl of fresh basil leaves
2) 1 handful of walnuts
3) 4 tablespoons of olive oil
4) Salt to taste
5) 1/2 cup of room temperature water
6) 200g of ham
7) 1 large clove of garlic
8) 100g of uncooked dried spaghetti
1) Pluck basil leaves from their stems and wash clean
2) Process basil leaves, walnuts, garlic, olive oil and as much water as needed until you get a homogenous paste
3) Cook spaghetti according to packet instructions
4) Slice ham into thin strips
5) Mix cooked spaghetti with peso paste, adding extra olive oil if too dry
6) Salt to taste
7) Garnish with freshly grated cheese and walnuts (optional)
Pluck basil leaves from their stems and wash clean:
Process basil leaves, garlic, walnuts, olive oil:
Until you get a homogenous paste:
Cook spaghetti according to packet instructions:
Slice ham into thin strips:
Mix cooked spaghetti with peso paste, adding extra olive oil if too dry:
Add ham and mix together:
Garnish with freshly grated cheese and walnuts: