As autumn approaches, I look back on my “Covid Summer” and have to say it was quite lovely. I don’t usually vacation in the summer months, so this year, being home seemed relatively normal. I found that the warm, sunny weather allowed my husband and I to support our favorite restaurants with al fresco dining. I also treasured many nights, lingering outdoors with friends over beautiful food and cocktails. Even with masks and social distancing, the summer did not disappoint.
But as the days shorten and the temperatures drop, I have a sense of dread moving into the end of the year. Fall has always been a reset for me and the time of year I love to travel. But there will be no vacations, overnights in New York City, Pilates conferences or 3-day weekends. I must wrap my head around the idea that I am staying put for a while.
Then all of a sudden, they appeared out of nowhere. Well, they actually appeared last week at the local Super Fresh! My life jacket for joy! My Magic Beans! The Long Beans were whispering to me, “It’s gonna be alright. Just let me stew in your kitchen and I promise you will be transported back to your Italian villa.”
I call them the Italian Long Bean because I was introduced to this vegetable on a food tour and cooking class in Lucca. It was September 2018, I was spending 3 glorious weeks in Tuscany, celebrating 50 years of life and feeling fabulous. Doing a quick Google search, I learned that the long bean is also known as the yard long bean, asparagus bean and that it is an Asian vegetable, not originally from Italy. It’s called the long bean, because, duh, it’s long. But it’s so different from the string bean that you see in our grocery stores. It’s meatier and a bit tougher than you would expect, but allows for long braising time on the stove. It is the vegetable you WANT to eat a bit mushy!
With just a few ingredients – garlic, oil, crushed tomatoes, herbs and salt, I can transport myself to a very happy place! But can it be that easy? Can I fill my joy reservoirs with simple pleasures? After the comfort and ease I experienced with my magic beans, I believe it’s worth a try.
While you may not understand my joy in magic beans, maybe you can find the humor in the story. Finding something that can make you laugh or even just break a smile can offer the joy you may need in the moment. Here are some other suggestions.
- Start a gratitude journal – Start or end your day with 10 things you are grateful for. Write them down so you have the list when you need some reminding.
- Purchase a house plant – Not only do they purify the air, but a plant may improve your mood and increase your creativity. It also gives you something to care for.
- Take a “passeggiata” – Italians associate a passeggiata with leisure and ease and the feeling of having plenty of time. It’s a traditional evening stroll, typically taken in a plaza by the local residents. I started adding this to my evening routine. And while I do not get transported back to Italy, it’s a lovely time to slow down at the end of the day.
- Brighten a room with fresh cut flowers – The colors and scents of flowers can enliven a room and maybe even boost your spirit.
- Create an uplifting playlist – Music can soothe the soul and energize your mind and body. Keep it handy when you need a quick pick me up.
- Indulge in a moment – The smell of that first morning coffee, a bite of amazing chocolate or the intimate conversation you are sharing with someone gives us the opportunity to be present and grateful.
I would love to hear how you find joy during these challenging times. Please reach out and share what makes your day a bit brighter. I also want to acknowledge that lingering over a stove and cooking your favorite meal may not be a solution for anyone who is struggling with depression or anxiety. If you or someone you know needs help, please find a medical professional who can assist you.
And if you ever stumble upon long beans, here’s a recipe to try! https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/07/braised-long-beans-tomato-garlic-recipe.html