Oh yes, thick and fluffy french toast + salted caramel sauce. Swoon. This kind of breakfast jolts me out of bed in the morning. The alarm goes off at 5 AM and in a matter of seconds I am re-considering the point of everything. Questioning my new goal of waking up at 5 AM has been a daily occurrence. It takes zero effort to fall back into sleep; it’s still pitch black outside at 5, and the birds have not even started singing their songs… Why am I doing this to myself again? Remind me, please? Ah yes, productivity. But it’s not just about eagerly completing ‘things’ on my To-Do list before the clock strikes 8. It’s also about feeling grounded (or at least a little bit closer to that), in my self and purpose and goals, before it’s time to mingle with other people and go through the motions of my outside responsibilities. I have to write an essay, I have to get a head start on studying for a math quiz, but I also have to sit with myself and meditate and recollect my intentions and values. The latter part of those responsibilities is just as, if not more, important than the former part. Waking up at 5 AM gives me a chunk of time to allot to me and myself. I highly recommend it. Although, I will also admit that it is not always as poetic as it sounds. It’s been two weeks since I re-vamped my morning routine and I still struggle to keep up on some days. There are mornings when I have to tempt myself out of bed with the promise of french toast. The satisfaction of getting out of bed by 5:01 (more like 5:15) + the pleasure derived from the sight and scent and taste of almond crusted challah french toast drenched in salted coconut sugar caramel = a happy person who is more likely to be a joyful presence in the classroom, at work, and at home.
In saying all that, I also recognize that non-circumstantial happiness is an important thing to stay mindful of and work on cultivating. I’m not really sure how to truly do it… how to be happy in the face of impending doom or discomfort. I definitely don’t think the pleasure one’s palette receives from salted caramel sauce is somehow shallow or wrong. Maybe we ought to strive for a balance of pleasures. Isn’t it impossible to not get carried away by one’s senses and desires from time to time? That is the animal in us, isn’t it? The animal in me sometimes wants to take me out for a fancy almond milk cappuccino, and sometimes I enjoy listening to it (although my new weekly budget may have something different to say about that…)
There’s no denying that a good chocolate chip cookie is capable of making most people smile. I will proudly raise my hand to salute that statement. But I am also fascinated by the idea of remaining content, happy even, at the prospect of never eating a chocolate chip cookie again. Or any other sweet or savory baked good for that matter. That thought frightens me a little! A life without fudgy brownies and tart pies? Is that a life at all? Of course it is, right? To begin weighing the quality of my life based on how many brownies I get to eat sounds a little troubling, and yet, I think I get caught up in that silly method of judgement all the time. My state of mind and mood are always tied up in external things and circumstances. It’s fascinating to imagine a life less dictated by the external; what would it feel like to stop caring about what other people thought of you? What if, when I didn’t get what I want, when I’m feeling lonely, when it begins to rain on an already successfully shitty day, I could pause and not succumb to my regular dread and despair… what if I could talk to myself like I was my own friend, rather than always seek the fleeting comfort of food or the presence of another person to cheer me up and distract me from my original feeling.
I know, I’m also rolling my eyes at myself, because, obviously, that is a super hard, if not impossible, thing to do. Isn’t that why being a monk requires spending hours everyday simply meditating, in peace and quiet and solitude? How can an average, city-dwelling person like me ever cultivate even a pennies worth of deep, inner contentment?
There’s no doubt that life is pretty long, one can only hope, so why not try to achieve some semblance of non-circumstantial contentment in the process? Surely the act of trying, of working that muscle day in and day out, can better the mind/heart/soul, right? Perhaps it will be no more than a soft whisper, reminding us to keep our chin up when we’re feeling ashamed or stay mindful when we’re bombarded with anxious thoughts, but with constancy on our minds (some of the time, at least), we may be able to sway ourselves away from the constant changes of appetite, style, desire, and god knows what else, that consumerism is always trying to shove down our throats. And don’t get me wrong, consumerism or capitalism or whatever else ism you can think of, are not solely to blame for our wish-washy, wavering states; we each have the agency to make ourselves conscious of the source of our unfulfilled and inconsistent desires (hint- maybe it’s us?)
There are lots of things to wake up to. There are definitely many things I am sleeping through and wary of without knowing it, but I suppose that’s part of the process of life: waking up to the truth, waking up to yourself, waking up to… challah french toast? At the moment, I’m only really certain about that last part. Maybe it’s time to take a break from the philosophical ramble and feed ourselves challah french toast!!!!
4 thick slices of challah
2/3 cup milk of choice (although I wouldn’t recommend soy because of its strong flavor)
2 pasture raised eggs
1 heaped tsp honey (or other liquid sweetener of choice)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Scant 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional!)
Dash of cinnamon
1/3-1/2 cup blanched almond flour
Cinnamon Sugar Apples:
1 large red apple, thinly sliced and chopped (make sure it’s a sweet variety!)
1 tbsp unsalted pasture raised butter
2-3 tsps coconut sugar
2-3 tsps water (add if your apples are looking too dry)
1/2 tsp ceylon cinnamon (perhaps a little less if using regular -cassia- cinnamon)
Salted caramel sauce:
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup milk of choice (besides soy)
Scant 1/4 tsp kosher salt (if you’re sensitive to saltiness, start with a pinch or two and add to taste)
2-4 tbsps sliced/slivered blanched almonds