Our puppy Rika was sick last week…the oh-my-God-she-might-die kind of sick. Of course we knew from the first tender moment we brought her into our lives, that we would likely outlive her. But as an 8-month-old puppy with 10,000 more fields to run, and 100,000 more balls to chase, it was way too soon. Through the week, we watched her sink further into digestive issues as we tried an unbelievable array of soft foods and homemade broths to tempt her nonexistent appetite, finally realizing she wasn’t even drinking water. After a barrage of tests that would impress Mayo Clinic, we came up empty of a diagnosis. So the Pet Emergency Clinic propped her up with fluids and sent her home, only for her to go straight downhill again. We’d take her back and we’d start the cycle again.
After several days, we finally identified an infection, and although it was likely a secondary infection, it gave us something to treat. Finally! Something we could do. Then we found she was willing to eat little turkey hot dogs that Gerber makes for toddlers. (I hereby apologize to our town’s parents of toddlers – I’m the one who cleaned out the local store of all their Gerber turkey hot dogs.) Now that she’s zipping around the house again, driving us crazy with squeaky toys she finds no matter where we hide them, I can reflect on that rough 10 days from a position of relief.
Some believe that life is about getting ready for loss – in fact it’s possible to boil Buddhism down to this kernel. Sure, it’s about all the joys life can bring, but it’s also about developing tools to help us preserve some remnant of equanimity to weather, accept, and ultimately integrate catastrophic loss, whether it’s the loss of our parents, our spouse, or a limb. Or it can be the unexpected loss of a house, a marriage, or a loved pet. It’s simply not possible to escape this darker part of life. We need to be able to learn how to respond to these events with some level of wisdom, tact, and strength that comes from a place that knows that this too shall pass. What I learned last week was that I have a long way to go to find that place.
Anyway. Just some thoughts I thought I’d share.
Meanwhile, here’s a great side or main dish – I think of this as the Middle Eastern version of the winning rice and beans combo of Mexican fame.
Ras el Hanout is a spice mix seen in many Middle Eastern and North African dishes, and is thought to originate in Morocco. It commonly includes cumin, allspice, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, and cayenne. You can purchase it at many grocery stores (I buy mine at Whole Foods), on Amazon or you can make your own.
The Wimpy Vegetarian Table
As a side dish, this pairs well for chicken or lamb – especially if you make a rub of the same spices for the meat.
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ yellow onion
- ¾ tsp ras el hanout spice
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp sea salt + more for your taste
- 1 Tbsp whole cloves
- 2 Tbsp raisins
- 1 Tbsp roasted garlic
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- 1½ cups cooked basmati rice
- 1 cup cooked lentils
- ½ cup coarsely chopped watercress leaves
- 3 roasted balsamic tomatoes
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, spices, salt, raisins, and garlic and sauté until very aromatic, about 10 minutes. Add the broth, cooked rice, and cooked lentils. Gently simmer until the broth is absorbed / evaporated, about 10 minutes. Toss with watercress.
- Serve warm, topped with the tomatoes.
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