The afternoon air leans warm and golden sunlight filters through tree branches near-bare of leaves. I walk the path as it dips down level with the creek, through layers of deconstructed leaf litter. With each step, the crunch. The bouquet: earthy, spicy, grounding. I look down at my feet as they step, step. I feel the earth rise up to meet my motion, affirming to me: you. are. here.
I wrote last post of our collective loss of one particular ritual: building and tending a fire. I am reminded of this once again, as I breathe in air threaded with the sweetness of woodsmoke. Fire tending is but one example of the ways we, as a society, have systematically untied our earthen roots.
We are disconnecting at a dizzying pace. From nature. From our place in it. We are leaning forward, lifting one foot off the ground, and trying mightily to lift the other as we seek a place of comfort and convenience. I am not implying we should become luddites and forsake all that science and technology have offered us–because they offer us much and undoubtedly better our lives. (I am, by training, a scientist.)
But in my own experience, the more I have moved away from my feet and into my head, the less connected and contented I feel. The more isolated. The more anxious.
There is a longing to reconnect–and a reconnection felt when I put two feet in a pile of crunchy leaves.
There is an aversion to the intangible–and a gravitation towards things I can hold onto, physically.
My son’s hand. A ceramic mug filled with hot coffee. The kindling for a wood fire.
Little things like putting the needle on a record, watching the turntable spin. Preparing a nourishing meal from scratch, ingredients sourced from an organic farm just up the road.
The revival of these things is not, I think, simple nostalgia. Or a quaint retro renaissance. Rather, it is a very real and very human desire to reconnect to ourselves, our community, our world. To feel our feet planted in the earth. To feel connected.
To study the creek as it flows out of its banks and creates new channels; to feel the wind as it blows and the snow as it stings your face … or lands softly on your tongue; to marvel when the wolf track is the size of your hand; to join in when the elk bugles and the sandhill sings.
Sweet Potato Teff Waffles with Candied Ginger Whipped Cream Makes 6-8 waffles
Slow food. Food that requires a methodological approach, intention. Food with delayed gratification.
You prepare the batter and, ideally, let it sit. Heat the waffle iron and attend to it, batch after batch after batch. Slice fruits and toast nuts and whip cream for topping. And then: sit down with a steaming cup of coffee to accompany, and savor every bite. Experience a connection to the process, to the result. I am admittedly something of a waffle addict, making them at least once a week. I like to experiment with different flavors–this time of year, pumpkin and squash, apple and pear are a few favorites. Here is a recipe for a sweet potato waffle, the sweet potato accented by a candied ginger-studded whipped cream. I hope you enjoy them on a slow morning sometime soon.
1 C (250 g) ivory teff flour*
1 1/4 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground ginger
2 T olive oil
2 T maple syrup
1 1/4 C buttermilk**
1 C (250 g) roasted, mashed sweet potato
Whipped Cream Ingredients:
1 C heavy whipping cream
2 T (30 g) chopped crystallized ginger
In a large bowl, whisk together the teff flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, maple syrup, buttermilk, and roasted sweet potato.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until combined. (For a very smooth batter, you can blitz the ingredients in a high-speed blender until well-combined.)
Set aside the batter to soak for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, heat your waffle iron.
Cook waffles according to your waffle-maker’s instructions, greasing the grates as necessary with olive oil.
While waffles are cooking, prepare the whipped cream:
Put the heavy whipping cream into the bowl of a stand mixer.***
Using the whisk attachment, beat the cream on medium to medium-high speed until soft peaks form (this means that when you take the whisk attachment off and invert it, the whipped cream slowly folds back over on itself).
Fold in the chopped crystallized ginger with a rubber spatula.
Serve the waffles with the whipped cream, perhaps some candied pecans and/or sliced fruit, and more maple syrup as desired.
* I used the ivory teff flour pictured here (not sponsored) to allow the color of the sweet potato to shine through. You can use regular teff flour, or even buckwheat flour, as a 1:1 alternative–the color of the final waffles will just be a bit darker.
** If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can use stir the juice of 1/2 lemon into 1 1/4 C regular or plant-based milk. Let it sit for about 10 minutes and it will curdle and serve as a great substitute.
*** Some people find that chilling the mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for about 10 minutes prior to whipping helps achieve the desired consistency.