This evening I channeled my mother by walking into my kitchen at 5:15pm without any idea what I was going to make for dinner. I opened the refrigerator door and stood perusing its Tupperwared contents, seeking inspiration. A few chunks of leftover roasted pumpkin… no. Newly made coconut kefir… good, but no. Half a box of barely-good-the-first-time leftover Vietnamese from the weekend… definitely not.
But then I spotted a big zucchini, some (relatively) fresh homemade pesto and cooked quinoa, and I knew I was in business. Growing up, I had seen my mother do this countless times… “Dear,” (that was my name on most days, when I wasn’t in trouble) “what are we going to have for dinner tonight?” She didn’t really expect an answer, she just wanted me to know that she didn’t know, and it might be just a minute (or 2!) before dinner was ready.
I wound up making these lovely zucchini pesto quinoa white bean burgers, served on rye toast (from the farmer’s market on Saturday) with some roasted local sweet potato, salad, cilantro chili cashew cream, & plenty of salad seeds. Dinner was all done in about 45 minutes from the time I stepped into the kitchen, and I think my Ma would have been proud. These burgers are full of veggies, vegan, gluten-free, and bang! used up the leftovers in the fridge.
She’s been gone for 10 years to the day, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. I wish SO MUCH that I could share things with her… everything, really. I had my “health revolution” long after she was gone, and I wish I could tell her that she was right about all those “crazy” ideas she had about nutrition… such as (in her words):
- Don’t diet: “It’s one of those things you do by not doing, so when you decide to do it, you just think about it all the time, and then you can’t do it. Get it?” Yes, I do!
- Soft drinks will kill you, especially the diet ones: I completely agree, and research is now showing the dangers of artificial sweeteners.
- I know you’re not allergic to wheat, but don’t eat too much of it: gluten intolerance/sensitivity is on the rise, and even if you’re not intolerant, there are so many other whole grains to eat that are healthier for you than processed products using wheat flour (like refined breads, crackers, baked goods, etc.) The more whole grains we eat (oats, millet, quinoa, barley) vs. processed grains (wheat and corn flour and products made with it), the better off we are.
- Dairy will give you mucus: actually, more than half the world is lactose intolerant. And conventionally-raised dairy is full of growth hormones and antibiotics to keep the cows healthy in inferior living conditions. We don’t need dairy to get our calcium, and there are plenty of plant-based milks to replace dairy milk.
- Learn how to say NO: well, this isn’t nutrition advice- it could be though, ha! But what Ma meant is that we all have our limits, our energy capacity. And if we don’t live within it… well, one day it will come back for payment. We need to learn to say NO to the things we don’t want to do or don’t have the capacity to do, and do with joy the things we can.
This is how Ma lived her life, with joy, wisdom, kindness, and ingenuity. She wasn’t above baking a potato on her car’s engine block during a winter road trip or telling off a policeman who stopped her “out of spite.” I loved her deeply and I wish I could still learn from her. But maybe by instilling in my kids some of her values, I’m carrying on.
So do you want this recipe for the pesto burgs? You really should have it, and I’ll give it to you the way Ma gave me recipes… on the back of an old grocery receipt, with inexact measurements. To be honest, I just eyeballed my ingredients tonight, but then, it’s not the kind of recipe you need precise measurements for. It’s forgiving… just like my mother.