Two days ago I went for a jog along the Hudson River. I wish I could say that I am a runner, but that would be an overstatement the size of Mount Fuji. Being a runner is not exactly in my genetic material, nor it is written on the palm of my hand, hence even if I tried really, really hard, I will never become one. But I still try. It was really the day that made me put my sneakers on, a brilliantly sunny day of mid spring, when the colors of just bloomed magnolias pop-up against the clear blue sky, when New York City smells like blossoms and fresh grass, and the noises of the metropolis turn into a cheerful tune, a kind of day when the energy of new season is in the air, pushing everyone to leave their habitat and move. Move, move, move.
Even when I try really hard I can barely stretch my run from northern Tribeca to the southmost tip of Battery Park before getting tired. I’ve been “running” for years, but I never made it further. Every runner has her limits... The southmost tip of the Battery Park City is where I inevitably stop, turn around, take a breath or two of the New-York-City-Hudson-River-air, and proceed back home walking. And that is where I saw her, at the southmost tip of the Battery Park City; a tiny old lady, seated in a wheelchair too big for her frail body, looking at someplace far away, across the river and across the horizon. She reminded me of Mom, the way she looked that last summer I got to see her... The same crumbled, pale skin, so thin and so translucent one could almost see through, the same light blue T-shirt, the same white hair, cropped unevenly, because her helper did not have time, or maybe it was too difficult to do it... She sat motionless, her hands crossed in her lap, because I think that, just like Mom, she reached a point when everything is an effort, yet you still try; there was still a glimpse of pleasure in her eyes, a faint touch of happiness, and contentment for another brilliant day across the horizon.
And I so wanted to come and touch her, hold her hand, give her a hug, because it is the hugs that I miss the most. But I carried on instead; I folded the picture neatly, and took it home.
May is the month we allocated for celebrating mothers. I find it kind of silly, because I try to celebrate my mom every single day. Don’t we all? I celebrate her by working hard, just as she did... By practicing mindfulness and kindness, hoping to be like her one day... And strong, I would like to be strong. I celebrate Mom every time I look at her book of recipes. Just like she used to do it, I now keep the book in a drawer lined with sky blue paper, her cookie cutters and the silver spoon I was baptized with in a tin box next to it. I celebrate Mom when I glaze The Cake, or when I bake a focaccia and sprinkle it with seeds, herbs and salt, just as she liked it. When I fill up the vases with flowers and scatter them all over the apartment, I celebrate. I celebrate by buying a pink bicycle for Miss Pain, the same kind of bike I once had. And when I put my daughter on the bike and take her to the Hudson River for a ride, I celebrate. And then, I run after the bike, afraid that our little one might fall, run, run, run, until I realize that I ran all the way to the southmost tip of the Battery Park City and back home without even noticing.
Spelt Focaccia with Ancient Seeds, Herbs and Salt
for the bread
* 16 oz all-purpose spelt flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
* 8-9 oz water
* 3/4 tsp active or instant yeast
* 1 tbsp sugar
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 1 3/4 tsp salt
for the topping
* olive oil for drizzling
* 1-2 tbsp Za'atar
* 1 tsp sumac
* 2-3 tbsp flax seeds and hulled hemp (I used two 0.4 oz packets of Carrington Farms flax hemp packs)
* Maldon or other coarse sea salt
Heat the water to about 110°F. (If you do not have thermometer, try a few drops of water on your wrist. If it feels warm and comfortable, yeast will be comfortable too.) Add the sugar. When sugar is dissolved, add the yeast. Stir once or twice to dissolve. Let the yeast mixture rest for about ten minutes, until it becomes foamy and doubles in volume.
Preheat the oven to 450F.
Pour the flour into a large bowl. Add the water with yeast, salt and oil, and knead. Knead about 3-5 minutes by hand, until the dough become smooth. (Spelt dough will need less water and less kneading that the wheat dough.) Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, away from draft or heat; cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about 45 minutes to an hour, until doubled in size. Punch the dough gently, divide in half, cover with plastic wrap and leave for another 20 minutes.
Coat two 15x10-inch baking sheets with oil. Punch the dough down. Transfer each half of the dough to prepared sheets. Using fingertips, press out the dough into a thin rectangle. Let the dough rest for about 30-45 minutes. Drizzle each focaccia with olive oil, and sprinkle with za'atar, sumac, flax seeds, hulled hemp and Maldon. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden and crispy. Serve warm or at room temperature.
(Carrington Farms graciously provided their products for this post, as a part of their May on the Move campaign. All opinions are my own.)