It’s a good thing that there are usually a couple of months between the Jewish new year and December 31st. While I do get ready for the former (and the 2 Jewish holidays that closely follow it), that preparation manifests itself mainly in how many meals we are hosting, who is coming, what we’re making, and how to best optimize shopping and cooking around our schedules. Needless to say, many a Pinterest “inspiration boards” are created in the weeks leading up to it.
But amidst all the chaos of trying to make preparations for these holidays less chaotic, I end up doing far less reflection on the year that passed, the lessons I’ve learned, and what I want to achieve in the upcoming year. It usually hits me on Yom Kippur (10 days after), which is incidentally a very intense fasting day. I guess once I cut the supply to my foodie mind, I can start focusing on other, more subtle things. So it’s then that I start really explicitly reflecting, and then I have some time until everyone else’s New Year’s to decide on changes I want to make.
New Year’s, as we all know, is a time when everyone makes themselves promises they will probably not keep. We call these “resolutions”, and they make some people lots of money (mainly gyms, detox experts, and guitar teachers). I can’t even count the number of times I told myself I’d learn to play Hotel California or go running every single day. Sadly, while music and running are a huge part of my life, I’ve done neither. I’m publishing this post at a time when most New Year’s resolutions seem like a distant memory… And while what I’m about to talk about next could sound very similar to “resolutions”, it’s really about something very different:
It all starts with my youngest brother. Said brother is pretty much a rockstar at everything he does. He’s “just a kid”, but seems to have it so much more together than I did when I was his age. One time a few months ago I was exhausted beyond belief: I was still nursing R about twice every night (and multiple times a day), I was completing a programming assignment while learning the programming language we were supposed to be using, and I was looking for a job. I wrote to him, asking how the heck he finds the motivation to keep at everything he does. His response blew me away in the this-is-so-simple-how did-I-not-think-of-that kind of way.
He basically pointed out that we humans are creatures of habit. Because of that, every time we make the choice to do the right thing (as opposed to procrastinating or making excuses for why not to do it), we aren’t just benefiting from that one time, but are actually setting ourselves up better to become the kind of people who make good choices, because we’re strengthening the habit of doing so.
I thought that was really neat, and certainly a great motivator. It’s easy to excuse yourself from doing something you should be when you reason that it’s a one time thing. But if you view that as a missed opportunity to score “habit points” towards that habit, it changes the game. And if you want to really make it dramatic, think about this: what is a lifestyle, really, if not a collection of habits?
So I decided to do this little experiment. I picked three habits to try to stick with, and see what happens. Nothing major, three little things that are as easy to do as they are to push off. It has been a huge success, so much so that I started adding a new habit every week, and so far have been able to keep it up pretty nicely. They say it takes 21 days to build and maintain a habit. I already have well more than three weeks under my belt of practicing the following habits nearly every day: drinking more water, flossing, getting to bed before I’m exhausted, practicing my startup’s pitch, doing squats, showering, putting my clothes away (as opposed to piling them on a chair in our room)… And, intoxicated by my success, I was getting ready to add another habit, which I knew would be more challenging. Way more challenging. Impossibly challenging:
I was going to quit sugar.
I have so much to say on this topic, but it’s really best reserved for a separate post (and recipe!). For now I’d love to hear about what kind of positive habits YOU are forming!
And now, the salad:
This salad is a tart, bitter-sweet, and refreshing way to enjoy something a bit lighter in the wintertime. It’s also quite festive-looking thanks to the jewel-like translucence of the fruits used in it (Mr. Graceful calls it “stained-glass salad”), so it would be great for a low key holiday side or even a Valentine’s dinner.
A note for the nitpickers: I know this salad is not sugar free. I hope to write more about the role of fruits in a sugar-free lifestyle in future posts.
Savory Winter Fruit Salad:
Serves: 4 as a side, or 2 as main
Estimated Time: 30 minutes
Kosher Classification: Neutral
2 large pomelos
1 large pink grapefruit
1/2 small onion
A handful fresh parsley
3 Tbs. sliced almonds
2 Tbs. olive oil
Fresh juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
Seed the pomegranate. Some people swear by the hack of cutting the fruit width-wise and banging the heck out of it with a wooden spoon over a bowl. In my experience, it’s a Pinterest fail waiting to happen, and just ends up splattering a ton of pomegranate seeds all over the place, so I go about it the old fashioned way: Cut the pomegranate lengthwise (from the crown to the stem), sit down with a friend or a good TV show, and loosely scrape out the seeds with your fingers into a bowl. I recommend starting with this fruit so that if any of the white parts accidentally end up in the bowl, you can take them out easily.
The nice thing about pomegranates is that they are divided into “compartments” inside, so if you see some seeds that look “off”, you don’t need to toss the whole thing since there’s a good chance the other compartments will be just fine.
Once you’re done, grab your pomelos and filet them. I find that the best way to do this is to make a deep slit around the circumference length wise, and then snap it open with your hands into halves. Pull each half apart into quarters, and then pull off the tough peel. That sets you up nicely for filleting the pomelo since it already exposes some of the slices, and all you need to do is pull them out.
If you run into a slice that’s still completely covered by the white film, make a small incision across the top of it and peel it open.
Cut the filleted slices into bite sized pieces and add them to the bowl.
Next up is the grapefruit. To fillet this fruit, cut the top and bottom so that some of the fruit is exposed. In doing this you’re both removing the peel and white part, and creating a straight base to stand the grapefruit on for the next step.
The next step is to cut away the peel from all sides of the grapefruit. Be sure to expose the fruit itself, and not just the white filmy part protecting it under the peel.
Then take your knife and fillet out exactly one slice by cutting very close to the skins on either side of it.
Once you’ve done that, fillet out the slice above it by cutting very close to the skin on top of that slice, then just gently pulling it out.
Continue in this manner until you’ve gone around the grapefruit and filleted out all the slices.
Cut the slices into bite sized pieces, and add them to the bowl.
The labor intensive part is finished! Congratulations!
Now all that’s left to do is chop the cilantro and onion finely, dry roast the almonds in a pan, and add those to the bowl.
Dress with the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt & pepper to taste (I prefer coarse).
* Lazy Girl Modifications:
If you are not picky about it, don’t fillet the grapefruit – just peel, break into slices and cut into pieces. And get someone else to seed the pomegranate 😉
- Seed 1/2 pomegranate.
- Filet 2 large pomelos and 1 large pink grapefruit and cut into bite size pieces.
- Finely chop a handful parsley and 1/2 small onion.
- Dry roast 3 Tbs. sliced almonds.
- Mix everything in a bowl with 3 Tbs. olive oil, juice of 1/2 lemon, and salt & pepper to taste.