On today’s New York Times, there was an article by columnist David Brooks titled Small, Happy Life. When asked to share about their purpose and meaning in life, many readers submitted essays about what Brooks calls the pursuit of the “small happy life” instead of the lofty ideals and goals we usually hear about in graduation commencement speeches.
When I was young, I was plagued by the free-floating existential angst about life’s ultimate meaning. Having a family quelled that, mostly. Life’s goal became extremely simple after I gave birth to my children: feed them, love them, raise them and give them the best I can give. To rear the young has been the purpose of every mother from the beginning of time — be it birds or cats or monkeys or humans. In my small happy life, I have a family, great books, great food, mostly great children, a lot of headaches, occasional crises and most importantly a lot of love — everything I need to have meaning.
Audrey has been doing a school project called “My Life” which is presented in photos and videos. They are supposed to talk about their dreams for the future at the end. As she was putting the presentation together, she called out to me, “What do I want to be in the future, mommy?” I thought it over for a beat and said, “Anything you want to be, darling.” And I meant it. And she became a little frustrated, “That’s the problem.” She finally settled on “Action Star.” I hope in this small happy life that I strive for, my children can reach for the rainbow.
Speaking of that, here is a salad with every hue of the rainbow. I saw it on epicurious and was immediately drawn to it by the vibrant colors of the salad. I have always enjoyed the combination of sticky rice, mango and peanuts in Southeast Asian dessert, and this salad reminds me of the times I have spent in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Black Rice Salad with Mango and Peanuts
1/4 cup (or more) fresh lime juice
1 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoon fish sauce
2 teaspoon soy sauce
2 cups black rice (preferably Lotus Foods Forbidden Rice)
Salt to taste
2 just-ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2″ dice
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup finely chopped red onion (about 1/2 large onion)
1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts
6 scallions, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, seeded, minced
Remove peel and white pith from oranges. Working over a medium bowl to catch juices and using a small sharp knife, cut between membranes to release orange segments into bowl. Squeeze membranes over bowl to release any juices. Strain juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl; reserve orange segments.
Add 1/4 cup lime juice, oil, and fish sauce (if using) to bowl with orange juice; whisk to blend. Set dressing aside.
Bring rice and 2 3/4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Season lightly with salt. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Spread out rice on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with dressing, and season lightly with salt; let cool.
Place mangoes and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add rice and toss gently to combine. Season lightly with salt and more lime juice, if desired.