Lost in America


When I gave up my job, I gave up something else with it. Something that I have been looking for ever since. My community. My relationship with JJ was the first real one I decided to give a shot to afterward, and he brought something unexpected to me, a small group who had a sense of that. Not only was it ingrained in them since birth, but it was also that they were here in a foreign country full of people who have very little understanding of it.

I didn’t hear from him for a while after we broke things off, then surprisingly, he answered an email I sent with a little link I thought he might like. It was nothing that really needed to be answered. It was the week his friend got married.

He said he had boarding school scars, but I think it was really boarding school lessons that he hadn’t quite learned yet. School was his community, his life, where his friends were. They were slowly moving off, getting married and I see him grasping to hold this little group together. In the west, we might say, “oh this is a natural part of growing up” and in some sense I would not disagree, but that is not the whole of it.

He contemplates moving to be with his other single guy friends, but I think in his heart he knows that will eventually end. He tries to console himself with the idea that everything ends, but deep down I always got the feeling that there is a profound sense of loss in him that he cannot reconcile himself to. I’m not sure he realized how often he talked about it in different ways, he talked about who he could trust, the idea of unity vs. individuality, he mentioned where “we” (meaning his group of friends) might settle, as his friends marry he slowly moves away from them. What does he want? To go back to school. Why? It is his sense of home.

What was he looking for in me? Home. I told him often how I felt like I lived two lives and he said he couldn’t understand it. I’m not so sure. Maybe it was a feeling he did not want to face, after all he left home at eight years old. I think that feeling runs deeper in him than he is aware of. For me, that feeling didn’t go away with him because it didn’t start with him. He wanted me to bring a little community to him, but he would not participate. And he was not the only one. My frustration came from the other side too. My friend said to me once, “Why should I have to go up there to meet him? Why doesn’t he just come down here for dinner? He is not putting fourth the effort to be a part of your life.” Neither was she. My point is not about her personally, it is that she articulated the attitude of others.

He came from a culture where community is all. I come from a culture where it had to be forged from a wilderness of scattered individuals. We may have started at different ends, but we are in the same place. It is certainly not that neither of us has friends, just the opposite in fact. Last time we met, I was so very happy to hear him say that he was getting out and about and meeting new people. It was what I had hoped he would have done during our relationship. This is what we were missing, we could not seem to cling to each other and to our friends at the same time. It was what we both needed the most.

Here’s what I think about the whole thing. It is the intimacy of holding fast to each other as partners that allows you to create other relationships without feeling torn apart. It is this that provides an anchor. There is a lot to be said about this idea of balance between community and individuality, between individuality and intimacy, between lost and home. When we broke JJ said one thing to me that was the absolute truth. He said, “I am lost.”

What does this have to do with food? Everything.

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“Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have one before us, the labyrinth is fully known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”
― Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

When people get married because they think it’s a long-time love affair, they’ll be divorced very soon, because all love affairs end in disappointment. But marriage is a recognition of a spiritual identity. – Joseph Campbell

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Double this recipe and make a very big dish of this to share with your friends.

Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagna from Epicurious.com

It's delicious.


For squash filling

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz), toasted , loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel, and coarsely chopped

For sauce

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups milk
  • 1 bay leaf (not California)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

For assembling lasagne

  • 1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)
  • 12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagne (1/2 lb)

Make filling:
Cook onion in butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt, and white pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Cool filling.

Make sauce while squash cooks:
Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and white pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. (Cover surface of sauce with wax paper if not using immediately.)

Assemble lasagne:
Preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish (or other shallow 3-quart baking dish) and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one third of filling, then sprinkle with a heaping 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.

Tightly cover baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagne in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

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