Surprisingly little of what I learned in college has stuck with me. I took several chemistry classes, but could not draw a molecule more complicated than water at this point. I took at least two Spanish courses, but doubt I could talk my way out of a dicey taxi fare in the streets of Havana. (However, I am proud to say I could about ten years ago. Someone tried to charge my friends and me for driving ourselves across Cuba while he was snoring in the back, despite a healthy dose of uppers in his system. We were not happy and got the message across loud and clear. Although that might have been part communication in Spanish, part slamming a door in his face.) One thing that has stayed with me is the concept of a “liminal phase”.
I am sure my anthropology professor couldn’t fully condone the definition, but a liminal phase is something like the transitional period between two stages in a person’s life. The period between childhood and adulthood, for instance, or the time between entering a religious order and becoming a full-fledged member. Basically, any time you are not quite one thing, but not another yet either.
Elaborate rituals often mark the passing into the next phase. People do funny things during these rites of passage- head-shaving, full seclusion, ceremonial dancing. You name it, and someone, somewhere, is probably doing it to ensure acceptance into a new phase in their life. That drunk Brit you meet, dressed in a pink tutu with hairy legs sticking out and a sign around his neck saying “Kiss me, I am getting married”? Liminal phase, and the rite of passage ain’t pretty.
Lately, I’ve been feeling like that Brit. My legs aren’t quite as hairy, but my life feels undecided, transitional. I am on my way to becoming someone’s wife, but have no ring on my finger. I am switching work places, but straddling the divide a little unelegantly. And this house I live in is going to need selling at some point, if only so we can store All. My man’s. Crap. There is no clear rite of passage that will get me through all three transitions unscathed. I’ve considered hiding under a duvet until I can emerge married, with a new boss and a new address, but wouldn’t be a rite of passage as much as active denial. And that, frankly, would be uncool.
So, for now, I am just hanging in there. Happy to be here, but not quite sure who I am going to be next. Not surprisingly, food plays a major part in keeping me grounded. What has surprised me, though, is that I haven’t been craving the large amounts of cheese and chocolate that I usually do in times of stress. Instead, I want simple meals with many vegetables. Bold flavors, and the feeling that I am supplying my body with lots of nutrients. A new kind of craving, but perhaps that is only fitting for a liminal phase.
Today, I made pasta with fennel and smoked salmon. Tasty even if your life isn’t moving in a new direction, and great for a quick dinner. Isn’t that what we all need, pink tutu or no?
Pasta with fennel and smoked salmon
- 2 shallots, in thin half moons
- 200 gr smoked salmon, in small pieces
- 2 fennel bulbs, halved, cored and thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp crème fraiche
- handful of dill, chopped finely (or teaspoon of dried dill, in a pinch)
- 3 tsp capers
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- enough pasta for two
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for pasta.
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet and add olive oil. When hot, add the shallots and cook until golden. Add the fennel slices and mix thoroughly. Add a splash or two of water and cover the pan.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for as long as the package indicates.
After 5 minutes or so, give contents of the skillet a good stir, so that the fennel that has been sitting on the top of the pile gets some direct contact with the skillet as well. Cover again and cook for a few more minutes, or until tender. When the fennel is done, take the skillet off the heat and add dill, capers and crème fraiche. Mix thoroughly, then add smoked salmon and stir to distribute evenly.
Drain pasta, fill two plates. Top with sauce and serve.