Fruits of Fall

Figs are one of the simple pleasures of early fall. Their season in the Northeast is relatively short – if you blink, you may miss the small, plump fruits heaped into green cardboard containers at your farmer’s market or grocery store. You may be able to find a relatively local crop, but chances are that they came from the west coast. Figs grow very well in drier climates like southern California as they are a crop that made their way from Asia over centuries. I feel that Philadelphians aren’t very familiar with these purple-y black gems. The black Mission figs are the most common in the Philadelphia area and you’re bound to find them at DiBruno Bros and Whole Foods beginning in September. People seem bewildered by them – do I just eat them or put them in something? I like to eat figs plain, taking bites out of the fruit as if it is a little apple. I also like crusty bread spread with a soft cheese and sliced figs on top. In the morning, I may add them to my steel cut oats with some local honey. The easiest and most inexpensive way to enjoy figs by far, though, is by picking up some fig jam. Or, making your own!

Lately, I’ve been inclined to spend time creating when I’m feeling down. Sometimes this means that I knit or write, but today I felt like being in the kitchen. This past week has sputtered along with set-backs and disappointments. I pulled Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars off of my shelf to see what I could make. My friend, M, had recently hinted that he would be very happy to accept a jar of fig jam so I settled on that particular recipe. I got my large, copper Mauviel preserving pan out and set to work chopping 3 pounds of fruit. The rhythmic, rocking motion of my chef’s knife is soothing and focuses my brain on one and only one thing – not chopping off a finger. It is a welcome distraction from all of the other clutter in my brain. I like Marisa’s canning recipes because you can get everything done, start to finish, in a couple of hours instead of an entire day. I prefer small batch canning because I can whip up 3 or 4 pints of any given recipe which is enough to get me through a season instead of having to be overwhelmed by the dozens of pints that traditional recipes produce. Someday, I will have a pantry lined with rows and rows of preserved foodstuffs, but that’s in the future along with the flock of chickens and small farm I want (another post for another time, perhaps?). For now, I just want something to slather on toast.

Preserving the season’s best produce isn’t the chore that it used to be. I managed to make this 5 pint batch of fig jam while studying Pathophysiology, eating dinner, walking two dogs, and catching up on prime-time season premieres! Start small and make what you like. Soon you’ll have a collection of homemade goodies at the ready for holiday gifts, parties, or even just for spicing up your own breakfast.


On Metamorphosis

Bike ride on the Great Allegheny Passage in Ohiopyle State Park. August 2012.

I am sure that the caterpillar can relate. The path to becoming something new is long, a bit messy, and often times a complex process of intertwined efforts.

Somewhere, beneath all of these soft layers that bounce and jiggle, is a person that I am hoping to meet. We really aren’t very different. We are both beautiful and intelligent and wildly funny human beings. This other woman has a bit more confidence, though. And much less need for self-deprecating humor. Mostly, she doesn’t worry about what everyone else thinks when they see her because she is no longer hiding behind her wit and her intelligence, she no longer lives on the offensive in fear of rejection or judgment. She just is. She is the sigh of relief I will let out when I’ve metamorphed out of this pudgy body and into one that is stronger, more powerful, healthy, and happy.

I downloaded a Couch 2 5k application to my iphone. Not so much because I have a desire to complete a 5k, but more because I was getting bored of 40 minutes on any given cardio machine without some sort of goal or purpose. Also, it’s time to get over my fear of running. I am TERRIFIED of running. In my body, it is uncomfortable – my breasts heave painfully with each step, my legs quiver precariously beneath me, my lungs threaten to collapse, and my stomach sends mayday signals to my brain that I just may vomit any second. It’s my body’s way of shouting “NO! STOP! Stop this right this minute before I quit”. All that over 30 seconds of running. The program guides you through alternating sessions of 30 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking, a warm up and cool down period. I was waiting for the endorphins everyone talks about but I only felt them for a fleeting minute or two if at all. I managed to power through the discomfort by channeling my absolute loathing for the body I currently inhabit. Somewhere around the halfway point I even forgot about the other gym members that could very well be snickering about my jiggly bits behind my ample rump. Even though Week 1 Day 1 of the program only lasts for 40 minutes, I wanted to jump for joy when I finished. “Take that, treadmill and chubby thighs!” Then I remembered I still had another half hour of strength training to complete. So I pulled myself together and kept going. Change is intentional – something to be thought about every day, to be lived deliberately. One foot in front of the other, choice upon choice, thousands of beads of sweat until I wriggle out of this chrysalis.

Mile marker 72 – we started here, rode to 82, and made the return trip.


The Youghiogheny River viewed from the bridge that connects the bike paths. Those yellow things are white water rafts.

The quintessential view of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water” – constructed in the late 1930’s over a waterfall. Another reason for the 5 hour drive west.