Friday, September 19, 2014

{Being Present} Sugar + Spice Nuts

Looking not-too-far back on my not-so-former life as an actress, I am reminded of a summer I spent in the Hamptons. No, not those Hamptons. I lived for two months in a Junebug-infested college campus in South Hampton. We did spend one weekend spying people-watching for a project in East Hampton and even got to snoop around explore a famous playwright's summer home, but that's beside the point.

What I wanted to talk about is BEING PRESENT. I write it all in capitals like that because, to this day, that is how I see it. In my mind and on my heart, those words are writ large, just as Jim, my old theater professor once offered them to me.

We were studying Stanislavsky and the profound grace of being.

A lot of people think acting is all about "faking it," when in reality, the greatest actors are simply being truthful. Living truth, simply. 

That summer in South Hampton, we began every Stanislavsky class in the same way: by GETTING PRESENT. We took quiet moments, the bright July sun pouring through the window glass across the hardwood floor, to check in, recognize, and own where we were. Who we were in that moment.

"Wherever you're at," Jim would say, "that's what you bring to the work. I don't care that your character is supposed to be sad. If you're happy, you're happy. Bring it with you. Let it inform the work. BE PRESENT. Otherwise, it's just lies."

Now what does Stanislavsky technique have to do with motherhood and keeping house? More than you might think at first glance.

So many times as moms, as homemakers (let's be honest: as women!), we are acting. Not in the high-brow Stanislavsky-esque sense, either. We're talking B-rated chick flick lousy acting. Not always, but on the bad days--the ones we keep praying will magically transform into something they're not. Those are the days we don the mask. We're up on stage, footlights blaring for an audience of none, and we are on. We are "faking it." 

We're trying to fit three weeks of tasks into 24 hours. We're stuffing our vision chockablock with Pinterest crafts and recipes, and we're trying to hold it all together with Duct tape, Band Aids, and sheer will. We clean the house in vain as the kids undo every iota of effort in our wake. We wipe the faces, straighten the buttons, and smile through. Sit, stand, wash, rinse, repeat.

We want to do it all. But if we take a moment to check in, to GET PRESENT, the truth is: we just want rest.

If I take the time to slow down, I have noticed there is a cadence to the day. It sings a song, unfolding with the sunlight, crescendo through the craziness, and then...if I've been following the dance, there comes a lull. In the afternoon, with baby and toddler napping, with much of the chores and all the school work done, and two meals out of the way, the sun sinks past it's zenith. If I'm listening, if I'm PRESENT, I feel the breath of the day exhale.

I love this lull. This peace time in the midst of the day-to-day. But it is fragile. A biting word, an errant whine, and it dissolves.

I've found that food helps to eke the moment full and wide. To preserve that breath of peace. An afternoon snack. So prosaic, and yet so precious. It helps to turn off the hurry that is always pounding at the door. For some sacred moments, we gather. We share sweet and warm. We insulate.


Together. Sweetly. Warmly.

And then we breathe again, and the day carries on.

Sugar + Spice Nuts
adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country

I am not joking when I say that these things are too. die. for. I said it, my husband said it, each of the kids said it. If that's not ringing endorsement enough, I don't know what is. Irresistibly crunchy, sweet but not too sweet with just a hint of spice, and packed with protein, this is the perfect snack to give you staying power until the witching hour just before dinner. You know what I'm talking about - that moment when you're in the middle of stirring the risotto and the kids inevitably melt down. Don't worry, sneak a few more nuts their way; that should tide them over. If not, pop one in your own mouth, and notice how the din just fades into the background.


1 c. sugar (I used evaporated cane syrup, which has more depth than standard white sugar)
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. ancho chile powder
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 lb. pecan halves (you could mix in walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts as well - in fact, I think a mix would only improve the homey quality)
1 egg white


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugar, salt, chile powder, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the nuts to the egg white and stir evenly to coat. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture and toss until evenly coated. Spread the sugared nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and separate nuts as they cool. 

Serve warm or cool, in salads, on desserts or oatmeal, or simply out of hand. We enjoyed ours with steaming mugs of Mexican cocoa. Store for up to 2 weeks in airtight mason jars - if you can keep them around that long.

P.S. If you've been following our family's progress, you'll know that this is Day 17 of the Great Elimination Diet. You may have also noticed the egg white in this recipe. Eggs are our latest "challenge" food. So far, so good. I'm very much looking forward to adding eggs back into my life on a regular basis again. Not least of which for these crunchy, crispy nuts. AD-DIC-TIVE.

1 comment:

  1. Love the lyrical-ness of this post and love that, for the first time, Sophia LOOKS LIKE ME!


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