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The Wu Food Project

My 30-day Royal Panda diet make-over

Orange lacquered salmon fillet and ribbons of yellow and zucchini squashes

Orange lacquered salmon fillet and ribbons of yellow and zucchini squashes

Look for inspiration and you’ll find it–even if it’s some place you’d never think to look, like for example, NBC’s  Today Show. There I sat this morning with mug in hand and the TV on, wondering where all the flowers had gone, and whether  the sight of billions of God’s petals and seeds spilled and progressing along a Pasadena parade route would strike me as elating or depressing–when suddenly,  behold! Lo! A guest/expert on the show was encouraging folks to choose an inspiration word for the coming year that would serve as a “buck-me-up-and- remind-me-again-of-what’s-important-to-me”  inner signal.

Enchanted with the economical notion of substituting  one word  for the coming year’s  lengthy syllabus of resolutions, I resolved immediately to chuck my long list of “oughta-do’s”  and replace them with…what?  I’d have to think.  It would take more than a bon mot. It would take a mighty mot!  Thumbing through the dictionary of my psyche promised to  be an enjoyable endeavor.

Now New Year’s Day can be a really groovy day if you can stay in the glorious moment of possibility.  Which I can,  it’s a gift, and I like it. A lot. I can be good for one day. Even in the kitchen, where I can be my naughtiest bad girl self.

Isn’t it just the best when you find a dish that you can substitute for one that is less healthful–and you love it!  Great example:  shaved slices of zucchini and yellow squashes poached in the smallest amount of chicken broth and finished with the tiniest dollop of butter and lemon.

The squash ribbons cook to al dente very quickly.

The squash ribbons cook to al dente very quickly.

It’s so easy to make –I actually don’t have a mandolin so I use a regular vegetable peeler to make the long “noodles.”  The colors are amazing and are the perfect contrast to a nice wild-caught piece of salmon.  I coated the salmon with a slight dusting of cornmeal and sauteed it quickly in a bit of olive oil before tossing it into the oven at 425 with a smear of orange marmalade and lemon juice. Happily there will be enough to warm up for future meals.

Later, because as I said–I can be very, very good for one day, I went on a lovely walk through the neighborhood. The first thing I noticed was that the sky was not only a vibrant blue, but it was covered in sweet white curls of cirrus clouds as if a child had painted over the sky with a brush dipped in white tempura paint.

And yes, it was the opposite of that cloudless azure sky etched so deeply into my memory, the day that my daughter died, and Icarus fell to earth.

Looking up at this sky of blue and looking all around me, I felt so  glad and happy to be alive. And that’s when my “be-all” word for 2014 came to me: New Morning.

Look it up in Wikipedia and the song has the lamest of descriptions.  Something about expressing the simple joys of life on the farm. But it’s so much more. It’s about being happy just to “be.”

Morning is when I feel the promise of the day and when I feel the most energetic.Before I set a foot on the floor, I meditate on things that I want to understand and let my mind have its own way. It’s when all my most creative ideas come to me. Problems that glittered like isolated stars become graphically connected like constellations, so that the facts come together and make sense. Morning is good. And a new morning–that’s even better, because it means you have turned a page.

As the day grew colder and darker,  I threw on a heavy coat and drove to Mr. Wu’s  to celebrate all that is sentimental and true by lifting a cup of kindness with an auld acquaintance that should never be forgotten or lost to mind.

We both wished Mr. Wu a happy new year and settled in a for a dinner of Royal Panda shrimp, preceded by a small plate of Mr. Wu’s crispy and scrumptious shrimp rolls.

In all truth, the first day of the year could happily serve as the perfect blueprint for the rest of 2014.  It was a new morning, just like Bob Dylan wrote about:  “This must be the day all my dreams come true. So happy just to be alive underneath this sky of blue, On this new morning with you.”

“And there’s a hand my trusty friend, And give me a hand o’ thine, And we’ll take a right good-will draught,  For auld lang signe.”

                                            A black-and-white photograph of Bob Dylan

 

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