A couple weeks back, I ordered the book I Dare Me off of Amazon, which is the true story of how Lu Ann Cahn, a woman in her mid-fifties who was feeling officially stuck in a rut, changed her life entirely by making herself try something new every single day for a year. (Side note: I don’t know what it is with me and people who devote a year of their lives to doing something out of the ordinary, but I love them–exhibit A: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; exhibit B: The Happiness Project; exhibit C: The Year of Living Biblically, which is about how humorous writer A. J. Jacobs, a self-proclaimed agnostic, spent 365 days trying to live every single commandment in the Bible, even the most obscure.)
There’s something simultaneously fascinating and motivating to me about reading stories of people who have taken deep plunges into unusual territory in order to try and snag a breakthrough.
I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of the genre.
Anyway, I’m about a third of the way into I Dare Me, and without consciously meaning to, I’ve discovered myself constantly looking for opportunities to try new things, from the hike we attempted last Saturday to one of the new-ish restaurants in town, which we’ve already eaten at twice in about 4 days. Without fail, these experiences have invigorated me and have opened up some interesting conversations between Matt and I as well.
(For instance, he admitted that he almost always needs an outside push to go outside of his routine and comfort zone, whereas I’m often going stir-crazy because I need something new to happen, and stat.)
All these conversations have got me thinking a lot about balance—balance between routine and novelty, between the so-called “mundane” and the out-of-the-ordinary. While I’ve been renewed by trying at least 4 new things in the last 5 days, I’ve also felt longings to curl up with the more familiar in order to recuperate a bit. So, although I’ve learned that I definitely NEED some novelty a little more than many people, I’ve also learned that I will more often than not need a good amount of time spent in my comfort zone right after.
That’s why trying out new recipes is so great for me—while working with new ingredients and trying out a new recipe is always somewhat of a risk, it combines the new (recipe or ingredients) with the comfort of the familiar (cooking).
Confession: before this week, I don’t think I’d ever tried rhubarb. I know for a FACT that I for sure had never cooked with it. Sure, I always had lots of opportunities to eat a rhubarb pie or try some rhubarb jam, but it was hard for me to go ahead and check it out when there were already tried-and-true favorites alongside them. (I think it has something to do with the fact that I sometimes unconsciously seem to have a scarcity complex when it comes to food—even though I know there will be many other times to eat cupcakes or come back to a restaurant or make a totally unusual dish, I find it hard to sacrifice THIS particular time to try something unknown or give up a chance to eat chocolate cupcakes when I have proven time and again that the usual choice is perfectly satisfactory and that just in case I never get the opportunity to again, I better make sure I enjoy THIS particular time by choosing something I’ve done before and enjoyed. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but that’s how it is.)
But last Saturday, Matt and I went to the local farmer’s market to see if there were any apricots to satisfy my cravings for them (which always seem to start up around mid-July), and I saw some gorgeous red and green stalks of rhubarb stacked up high in piles and rubber-banded together that were being passed reverently from farmer to consumer in paper bags, their leaves slightly wilting out the top.
I’d never eaten rhubarb (much less cooked with it), but I wanted something new, and I wanted it now.
It took me a couple days to work up the courage to try it, but luckily, I stumbled across a great recipe for a rhubarb galette while reading this blog. The recipe seemed to be a good blend of the unfamiliar and the comfortable, and while I waited for Matt to come home from work one night, I decided to take the plunge.
The odor of the stalks as I sliced into them tickled my nose with their unfamiliarity, and I was caught in that space between thrill at the new-ness of it all and disgust that it was a smell I didn’t recognize. I knew that rhubarb was technically a vegetable that was often sweetened to taste like a fruit, but it didn’t take away from the strange feeling that I was making a sugar-coated veggie pot pie.
And even though my tart looked about perfect coming out of the oven, it still took me about half an hour to work up the courage to try a bite:
What if I hated it and I’d spent all this time for nothing?
When Matt finally did get home, I poured myself a glass of freshly-bought milk, cut myself a slice of the galette, and prepared to be disappointed.
Luckily for me (as is often the case when trying new things), I was delighted—the cinnamon-and-nutmeg-laced mixture tasted slightly like some fabulously new kind of decadent apple pie, and I was pleased that the rhubarb stalks (which, in their texture, reminded me so much of celery) had been cooked into creamy submission by chilling in a concoction of sugar and flour and baking for an hour at 350 degrees.
In short, I found out that while I may not *quite* be ready for trying something new every single day, I am ready for more novelty than I often let myself have (something I should have realized from the Change It Up Challenge I did a few years back).
And now, thanks to that knowledge, I know that I apparently love rhubarb.
What’s your favorite way of preparing rhubarb? What’s the next challenge I should take on with it? (And does anyone know of a time when rhubarb is treated more as a vegetable–like in a savory dish–than as a fruit?)