Looking for a Bright Spot

“Don’t dwell on all the bad news around you.” That’s the current advice from the positive thinking industry: You may have lost your job and your house, you’ve no doubt lost a lot of paper value and retirement security, there’s no vacation this year and probably not many additions to the wardrobe, plus you’re struggling to keep your marriage off the rocks, but through it all, keep your eye on the positive ball.

I’ve been having a hard time with this prescription. Somehow, hearing about the 600,000 jobs lost in just the month of January, or the latest report about how the consequences of our environmental misdeeds have now reached the point of no return, or how many soldiers are now committing suicide–these things keep striking me with dismay, no matter how hard I try to remain upbeat.

Don’t get me wrong. I would like to turn my thinking around. Somehow, we’ve got to get our collective psyche out of the cellar or all the stimulus checks in the world aren’t going to save us. The problem lies in finding something good to think about. Where’s the golden nugget that could distract us with some happy thoughts?

Could food be that bright spot? Coming from a kitchen and healthy eating coach, I know that sounds a little self-serving. But it isn’t just me thinking in this way. This morning I was dropping my car off at the garage. As always, I got to chatting about food, in this case it was with the owner, Laurie.  She told me about one of yesterday’s customers. While waiting for the mechanics to finish his car, this customer phoned his wife and had the most interesting and pleasant conversation about what they could make for dinner, what he could pick up on the way home, what might taste good with it, and so on. “Isn’t that a nice conversation,” Laurie asked, “instead of talking about all the depressing stuff going on?”

Humble food could be a savior right now. Something warm, yummy and comforting could give our brains something positive to chew on and ruminate about. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to cost a lot, either. In fact, I’ve got a simple beef stew simmering on the stove that is making me feel pretty positive about dinnertime. It has a fancy French name, Beef Daube Provencal, but that just has to do with being cooked in a covered casserole and coming from the Provence region of France.  Turns out its a pretty appropriate recipe , because Provence is a place where they seem to know that extreme delight (and a positive take on life) can come from simply combining the foods readily (and inexpensively) available in a region, and doing so with care, attention and with enough time to let the flavors meld.

Many happy meals, and in case you’d like to make a “fancy” French stew, the recipe will be in tomorrow’s post. For now, go buy some stew meat (or take it from the freezer) and make sure you have carrots, celery and garlic on hand, as well as 1 small can each of tomatoes and tomato paste. If you want the deluxe version, get some mushrooms and fresh rosemary from the store, too.

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