A couple weeks ago I worked a full week and attended a number of gatherings that left the introvert in me completely drained…running on empty. I also felt tired and sick. I knew that going to a six hour writing seminar on Vashon Island wasn’t probably the best idea. But I went, because I had to. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
I spent six hours talking, eating, and writing with two other women in a little studio space in town. We started the day with some remarkable pastries from the local bakery and countless cups of tea, got to know one another a bit, and then listened to few readings from authors ranging from Ta-Nehisi Coates to Laurie Colwin to an audio of the “The Room Where It Happens” by Lin-Manuel Miranda from the very popular and noteworthy musical, Hamilton.
At lunch time, we broke for an hour to make our way down the street to the Saturday Farmers Market. We wandered around on our own, getting a sense of “place” which we then shared about after lunch. The market was relatively small but hosted a variety of vendors ranging from fresh herbs to yarn to garlic herb cashew cream. It was a dreary spring day but that didn’t stop the locals from stopping by and catching up with one another. Everyone seemed to know one another and there was a clear sense of community and belonging.
After gathering a basket of fresh strawberries, greens, and olive oil at the market for lunch we headed back to the studio and settled in. We were treated to a glorious meal of cold pea soup, greens, and fresh strawberries. After a nourishing lunch of good food and conversation, we refilled our cups of tea and settled in for some more readings and quick writes, or “mind dumps” as we called it, which we ended up sharing and critiquing with one another afterward.
We also talked about life; we talked about the hurdles we’ve faced, about hope, growth, and things to look forward to. I was the youngest there, by a couple of decades, and received a lot of wisdom in those six hours, including the fact that a majority of my strife, uncertainty, and lack of self-confidence in my writing, relationships, and self were in fact a product of my age – of being in my twenties. I learned that being twenty-something is tough and unclear but that it would soon pass with time. I also learned that writing is hard – a lot more difficult than I thought especially when put on the spot. But I learned something important, that even if it seems like rubbish, there are usually nuggets of gold tucked it between that are worth saving.
Before I knew it, we were hugging goodbye and off on our separate ways. It had been a wonderful day and I was sad for it to have passed so quickly. I hopped on the ferry back to the city and was soon back in the hustle of normalcy. But I haven’t forgotten our conversation, writing, or the food. And I would be back in a heartbeat if offered the opportunity for another workshop with these people and on this island. Vashon, you have my heart, as do those almond cookies from the local bakery which I’ll be back for without a doubt.
Later that evening, I was expected at my monthly book club with friends. It felt only right to prepare this blueberry crisp by the great Shauna Niequist in her book Bread & Wine in honor of my own day of writing. I think a crisp is the perfect dessert to share with others any time of year and is a dish that carries a long list of memories depending on the season and fruit on hand. This one in particular is my favorite, and not just because it is secretly on the healthy side while still very indulgent. But it is simple to throw together and works well with any fruit. The oats, almond flour, pecans, olive oil, and maple syrup remind me of my favorite granola and the berries don’t require any added sugar. The crisp is also gluten-free and vegan, but no one would know otherwise. And for this particular recipe, I’ve doubled the topping from the original because everyone knows that is the best part and I find it is necessary to cover all of the berries. If you are serving this dish just for two you can halve the topping, if desired. I especially love this crisp with a scoop (or two, let’s be honest) of vanilla ice cream or this honey cinnamon one from Snoqualmie which adds a whole other element of flavor.
Adapted from Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist
2-12 oz bags frozen blueberries and/or other fruit (I used blueberries and peaches this time around) (depending on the season you can also use 4-5 cups fresh berries and fruit)
2 cups gluten-free old fashioned oats
1 cup chopped pecans (walnuts work also)
1 cup almond meal/flour
1/2 cup good quality maple syrup
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
Put the berries into an 8×8 baking dish. Mix all ingredients for the crisp topping in a large bowl until well combined. Spread topping over the berries. Bake at 350° for about 40-45 minutes until the fruit starts to bubble and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream.