The Winter of Our Discontent


You know how it is when you are really craving something like pie or Thai food, but then you get it and it’s disappointing? That sucks. Want is such a strange thing. We get so attached to things we want. We even get attached to the idea of what we want almost more than the thing it’s self.

“Art that excites desire for the object as a tangile object he calls pornographic. Art that excites loathing or fear for the object he terms didactic, or instructive.”  This comment by Joseph Campbell about James Joyce made me go back to look at the concept of desire and attachment in Buddhism again. In the west we have this idea that to detach and to cut out desire means to not have feelings. I thing that this misunderstanding is simply a matter of translation. What Buddhism really explains is the same thing Joyce was talking about.

I also think this idea of pornographic or didactic is an important distinction in love. We make it to a certain extent when we talk about physical love. But this dilemma of desire can happen with almost anything. When I met JJ he wanted things. He wanted to buy a house and he wanted to go to Turin. When he stopped wanting those things, or they didn’t work out, he stopped wanting me. I was pornography to him. He wanted to get, to have, and I was the medium through which he thought that could be achieved. He wasn’t attached to me, he was attached to the future he thought I could bring to him.

It not like he is the only one, he is just (as usual) my generic example. It happens to all of us. We cannot be in the moment and simultaneously looking to the future. Attachment to an idea is why you are sad when your Thai lunch turns out to be not what you expected. It is also why art, literature, food and sex can bring us into that transcendent place where we are completely engrossed in the moment. This is the moment of detachment, of giving up your desires and just Being. It is the act of mindfulness and the full expression of love. I think it is the “magic” JJ was looking for. I think it is the magic everyone looks for.

Being is so very easy to imagine and so very hard to do.

Cream of Butternut Squash Soup (from the Steinbeck House Restaurant)

  • 2 – 2 lb.butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2 in. cubes 1 large carrot, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 – 4 oz. stick unsalted butter, melted, divided 1 T. finely chopped fresh ginger
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper 1 T. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped 2 qt. Chicken broth
  • 2 medium celery ribs, cut into 1 inch pieces ½ C. cold heavy cream
  • 1 medium leek (white and tender green), 2 medium scallions, minced
  • coarsely chopped 2 fresh chives, finely snipped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large roasting pan toss the squash with 4 tablespoons melted butter and a pinch each of salt and peppers. Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender.

Meanwhile, add the remaining butter to a large saucepan. Add the onion, celery, leek and carrot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until barely softened. (About 8 minutes.) Stir in the ginger, thyme and roasted squash. Add the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Partially cover, reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender. Return the soup to the saucepan and season with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add the scallions and a pinch of salt and whip to firm peaks. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of scallion cream and a sprinkle of chives. Serve at once. Serves 8.

The Steinbeck House Restaurant

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A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. – John Steinbeck

Where does discontent start? You are warm enough, but you shiver. You are fed, yet hunger gnaws you. You have been loved, but your yearning wanders in new fields. And to prod all these there’s time, the Bastard Time. – John Steinbeck

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