To be Silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glitter, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. Although she continued to knit, and sat upright, it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless. — To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
I like being alone. I crave the quiet, the still and the noiseless, and while people who think they know me find themselves shocked by this, I can only say this: you don’t really know me. As an itinerant teenager in Long Island, who skirted the edges of things, who never quite fit in, I spent evenings and weekends taking buses to other parts of the North Shore. There was never really an itinerary, it was just something to do. It was a temporary escape to feel my body in motion and to be quiet and calm while frenzy surrounded me. I memorized bus routes and collected change. Walked through expansive malls that stood under a halo of fluorescent lights and kicked leaves by creeks and watched small boats cleave through the water from a harbor. Always I arrived home in the gloaming, when the evening closed in on us and the sky was an actinic blue. Back then our neighbors blasted Led Zeppelin and burned leaves in garbage cans. All I wanted to do was sit in the middle of the street, alone, witness to the passersby shivering in anoraks, watching flames lick metal.
It’s strange to think that I live in a culture that sometimes demonizes the art of being alone. Many equate alone to loneliness. Others take pity on the single-serving dinner and the chair left bare. However, sometimes, there’s nothing I need more.
After two weeks of intensive meetings, plane travel and days of talking, smiling, talking and more talking, I cancelled my Thanksgiving plans because there was nothing that made me cry out more than having to endure another day of talking. I wanted to give my vocal cords a break. I wanted a clear mind to think. A body to rest. So I can’t even tell you how much I’m enjoying my Thanksgiving, which has amounted to a spin class, a movie and batches of cookies and stalks of kale.
Whether your’re surrounded by your beloveds or spending some time in solitude, I wish you clarity and much, much light.
For the salad
8oz Tuscan (or Lacinato) kale, chopped into thin ribbons
16oz butternut squash, peeled and chopped into fat cubes
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted
1/3 cup dried cherries
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
Optional: 2oz soft goat cheese, crumbled
For the pasta
16oz whole wheat fettucini (or linguine)
8oz ground sweet sausage
1 tbsp chopped sage leaves
4oz Tuscan (or Lacinato) kale, chopped into thin ribbons
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
3-4oz truffle-infused cheese (you can also use goat cheese or thick chunks of parmesan — either would work well)
up to 1/4 cup reserve pasta water
For the salad: Pre-heat the oven to 400F. On a cookie sheet lined with tin foil or parchment paper, spread out the squash and drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil on top. Season with salt and pepper. Make sure that all the squash cubes are coated, slick and glossy. Roast for 20 minutes or until tender and slightly char. Set side to cool.
Cut along the vein on each kale leaf, discarded the vein when you’re done. Your left with leaflets of kale. Bunch all of them and fold them over and cut small ribbons with a sharp knife. Add the leaves to a bowl. Brief parenthetical: some folks can’t stand raw kale, however, I love it and find that it’s a crisp juxtaposition to the squash and cherries. If you’re the sort that wants a little massaging, add olive oil to your palms and massage each leaf with a little sea salt. This will break down the fibers and deliver a slightly wilted, less bitter green.
In a small skillet, toast your pistachios until their aromatic and slightly browned (2-3 minutes). Set nuts aside. Cut your slightly-cooled squash into mini-cubes, and in a large bowl toss the squash, kale, toasted nuts and cherries. Drizzle the remaining olive oil and add cheese if you prefer. Add salt/pepper, if necessary.
For the pasta: In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Season generously with salt. Nigella Lawson once said that pasta water should resemble the Mediterranean and I believe her. Once your water boils, add your noodles and stir a bit ensuring that none of them sticks to one another. Back in the day someone tried to sell me on the olive oil trick in water. It didn’t work, and all I ended up doing was wasting expensive oil. If you don’t want your noodles to stick, stir them to separate.
Drizzle 1 tbsp of oil In a large saucepan and add your sausage and sage. Stir until the sausage is brown, slightly charred and set aside. Drain your pasta, however, keep a little reserve water just in case your dish is a bit dry. Add your pasta to the cooked sausage and stir so the noodles are coated and slick. Add in the cheese and stir to combine.
Cut along the vein on each kale leaf, discarded the vein when you’re done. Your left with leaflets of kale. Bunch all of them and fold them over and cut small ribbons with a sharp knife. Add the leaves to the bottom of a large bowl.
Tumble in the pasta, sausage and cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and reserve water, if necessary. Season with salt, pepper. Serve hot!