Chicken & Herb Salad with Peanuts & Crispy Shallots + Embodiment (and Surrender)
Happy Friday, friends! This has been a strange week. I don’t know if it was because of the solar eclipse/new moon/Mercury going into retrograde trifecta, or if it was just one of those weeks, but I couldn’t quite connect A to B. Thankfully I have an easy recipe for you that takes little thought, but that goes big on flavor. It’s a chicken and herb salad with peanuts and crispy shallots. I’m fairly (okay, massively) obsessed with this salad, which was inspired by Vietnamese flavors and features fresh mint, basil, crunchy red bell peppers, cucumbers, and a vibrant lime dressing.
p.s. Thank you to paid subscriber Sheena who requested an herb salad and sparked the idea for this recipe—one of the benefits of being a paid member is that you get to request the recipes that I develop!
This was not the essay you were supposed to have this week. I’ve been working on a three part series, but, as I mentioned, I could not find clarity, no matter how hard I pushed. In past years I would have “mind muscled” my way to the end result. I would have struggled, agonizing over the details, lamenting the work, and even taking strange pride in the pain. That was my safe space. Work hard. Push yourself. Achieve.
These old patterns aren’t easy to break. Indeed, it often feels safer to “do” than to rest, even if the doing is rather futile or ineffective.
On Monday my inner voice told me to let my body lead, not my mind. “But how will I get my work done?” I wanted to scream?
It takes a massive amount of trust to listen to our bodies over our brains. It wasn’t until I finally surrendered later in the week—setting aside the newsletter essay that I was agonizing over—that my creative spark returned. I was lying in bed, tired and foggy, when I had the urge to pick up my notebook and pen. The start of this newsletter that you’re reading now poured out, pen on paper. I realized that this week I needed to speak from my heart, not my head.
Listening to our bodies
There is so much wisdom and pleasure available when we listen deeply to our bodies, but this is a rather subversive act. As I talk about in this newsletter, we are deeply conditioned to believe that our bodies don’t have power. When we choose to listen to our bodies over our brains, it can feel uncomfortable or scary—not only are we acting outside of societal norms, but our minds often don’t want to relinquish control. However, like anything else, I’ve found this gets easier with practice, and an easy place to start is in the kitchen.
Food as a tool for embodiment
While there are many ways that we can connect with our bodies, food is perhaps the most fun—it can be a delicious tool to help us ground into our senses and calm the chaos of the mind. Peel back a banana, listening to the gentle tears of the fibers, and put your full attention on the flavor of the creamy fruit. Dip your hand into a jar of flour or rice (oh, the joy!). Allow a piece of chocolate to melt, ever so slowly, on your tongue. Lean into intuitive cooking.
If your attention is fully engaged in your senses, then it’s impossible to be caught up in the thoughts and worries that play like static in our heads.
Embodiment = presence
When we say to our minds, “thank you, but I don’t need you to control the show right now,” and instead put our focus into our bodies, we can access more spaciousness and perhaps even some play.
I spent the rest of the week deeply aware of my body in the kitchen. I paid attention to the bumpy, cool skin of an avocado, and the silky slip of fruit underneath. I watched mushrooms sizzle in oil and butter, seeing them surrender their liquid and turn toasty brown. I nibbled on these tender granola clusters late at night, staring out a dark window, noticing where the salt and sugar landed on my tongue. Yes, I still made dinner for my family, and tested and photographed new recipes, but I tried to not let my mind get too wrapped up in the process. I took many deep breaths and slowed down.
“Doing” with ease
And when inspiration for the mental “doing” struck (which I’ve found it always will), I could hop into it with more ease (even if it took me by surprise, like writing the newsletter in bed with a pen and paper!). Everything I “needed” to do this week still got done, just without the struggle.
That other newsletter that was intended for you this week? I’m trusting it will come through when it’s ready, and that it will be even better because of the wait. After all, if you try to force a butterfly out of the cocoon before it’s ready, it will never be able to fly.
While I’m lucky to own my own business and set my own hours, embodiment is something we can all practice, even on a tight schedule and while upholding life’s obligations. We can put our attention into our bodies when we drive to the office or drop the kids off at school. We can pause a few times throughout the day to take conscious deep breaths. We can nibble on a bowl of almonds at our desk, slowly, paying close attention to the crunch and sweet aftertaste. The more we consciously inhabit our bodies and trust in its wisdom, the more we can calm the mind’s need to worry and control. And the more freedom we will therefore feel.
Related essays and podcasts:
A new kind of chicken salad
This is the perfect dish to help you sink into your senses. Few aromas bring me into my body faster than the bright hit of fresh herbs, and here whole leaves of mint and basil take the place of traditional salad greens. They’re tossed with spicy arugula, rotisserie chicken, crunchy bell peppers and juicy cucumbers (the recipe was inspired by the Crunchy Vietnamese-Inspired Chicken & Rice Salad from my book, Build-a-Bowl, but is much easier to make!).
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