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Ronnie Paul: Achieving contentment

Ronnie Paul
Columnist

I meditate to feel quiet and peaceful. Recently, I’ve wondered if I could further calm my brain babble by concentrating on a spiritual question, a koan that would keep my mind focused.

To come up with a perfect question, I reviewed my daily practice. As we sit and sip our morning cups of espresso, Jeff and I first examine the benefits of attaining a peaceful mind, which generally leads to discussing everything from hiking the Alps to planting zucchini. After our cups are empty and our jaws tired, we close our eyes and begin to meditate.

Just as I start to feel serene, our two cats join us, one nestling in against my right hip, the other sprawling across my thighs. These cats are loving brothers, except during meditation time and often at 3 a.m., when they remember each other’s past injustices. Their squabbling requires a swipe of my arm, which sends them galloping to the kitchen.

The sound of cats chewing kibble annoys me during meditation, so I try transforming their munching into a soothing mantra by chanting the names of all the cats we’ve had. This leads me to contemplate ones we may have in the future, and then makes me wonder if we have enough cat food.

Yes, sometimes the peace and quiet of meditation eludes me. But yesterday I did come up with the perfect koan: what’s the sound of two cats laughing?

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I hope these recipes soothe you.

Pasta Buono

Serves 3-4

It’s the cat’s meow when grocery tidbits whip up into a culinary success.

3 ounces thinly sliced white mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 ounces broccoli florets

6 ounces fettuccine

1 6.5 ounce can chopped clams

1 pressed garlic clove

¼ cup chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

Sauté the mushrooms in the olive oil until just tender and put them in an attractive bowl. My mother advised that attractive serving bowls are important because if something doesn’t taste great at least it looks beautiful.

Bring a pot of water to boil. It’s for the pasta, but I boil the broccoli in this water before cooking it. To do this, drop the florets in the water for 3 minutes until just tender and lift them out with a slotted spoon. Shake off the water and put them in said bowl with the mushrooms.

Now you’re ready to drop in the pasta. To prevent clumps, pour a little olive oil into the bubbling cauldron. Stir the pasta around and boil until just tender. Drain and put it into the bowl.

While the pasta boils, gently heat the clams with the garlic. Stir in the parsley and salt and pepper.

Finally, pour on the clam mixture, the additional olive oil, and the lemon juice and toss well with everything in your chosen bowl.

A Gem of a Carrot Salad

Serves 2-3

Meditate to the sound of carrots grating.

1½ cups grated carrots

¼ cup halved black olives

Dressing

Whisk together:

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1 pressed garlic clove

¼ teaspoon dried dill

Salt and pepper

Toss everything together and serve.

Ronnie Paul is a Nevada County freelance writer.


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