Saturday, January 26, 2013
Overthinking Happiness: Mashed Parsnips
The other day, a very kind person gave me a happiness jar. Maybe you've seen these on Pinterest, or on some crafty friend's blog, or on Facebook; the idea is that you use the jar to store scraps of paper with notes or pictures of happy memories, moments that make you laugh out loud, surprise gifts, successes, acts of kindness, etc. At the end of the year, on December 31 (or on whatever arbitrary date you decide, I guess), you empty the jar, and marvel at all of the happiness in your life. The idea seems to be Elizabeth Gilbert's, originally: back in October, she posted her own happiness jar -- which is several years old -- to her Facebook page, and invited followers to participate in the project with her, and like many things do in social media, the idea took on a life of its own.
And when I ask myself why, I don't know the answer: is it because I was afraid I wouldn't fill it? Because I wasn't feeling crafty enough? I don't know.
In any case, this lovely little specimen found its way to my house and took up residence on my dining room table.
Where, as I do over pretty much everything, I agonized over it.
I wondered how I would judge if something was important enough to be included in the happiness jar. What were the jar-worthy criteria? What if I didn't do enough happy things? Or what if I didn't fill it? Or what if I didn't choose well, and put in things that weren't really the happiest after all, and ran out of room? It was too much pressure.
S. watched the happiness jar stay empty for several days and then commented one day at dinner that he had some money that said the jar would stay empty all year. Indignantly, I denied this. After all, I'd already had two things happen that I was going to put into the happiness jar.
So why hadn't I put them in the happiness jar?
Performance anxiety. The drive to perfection. These things prevent me from experiencing happiness, or perhaps from acknowledging happiness when I do experience it. When really, all I need to do is breathe it in, pure and simple. It's not as if you'll run out of happy if you celebrate it as often as it happens. Happiness doesn't come in limited supply per customer.
So I took a deep breath, and I started. I dropped the first two pieces into the jar yesterday. Because happiness is something you really shouldn't overthink.
Do you have a "happiness jar," real or virtual?
(Updated to add: Do yourself a favor and go read Mel's response to the Happiness Jar phenomenon ... because it will make you laugh out loud. I totally need both of her jars, too.)
This is a decidedly un-fancy side. But really lovely in their simplicity. Because there are some things you just don't need to overthink.
1 1/2 lbs. parsnips, cut in 1/2" cubes
water to cover
2 to 3 T. butter from happy cows, or margarine, or oil of your choice (flaxseed oil might be a nice nutty option here)
A dash of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Place parsnips in a large pot and just cover with water. Bring to a boil and lower heat to medium; continue cooking until almost all of the water has evaporated, about 20 minutes. (You should test the parsnips after about 20 minutes anyway; if they begin to fall apart on your fork, you have my permission to drain them.) Transfer the parsnips to a large bowl and mash to your hearts' content. Add the butter and mash some more.
Add nutmeg, salt and pepper, and continue to mash and stir until smooth. Serve immediately.