Last week, the husband of a friend of our family passed away from late-stage cancer. I struggled to settle with this good life passing so early, the second one this year in our life circle, each one passing within months after their diagnosis, each one a loving spouse and a parent to teenage children. In a strange parallelism, they each shared the same oncologist as me, and that feeling of six degrees of separation struck me in the moment.
My cancer was very beatable and it’s behind me now, yet in a split second, upon hearing this news, I returned to that dark place of fear before I knew my full diagnosis, when it felt like my carefully crafted life was breaking, and it reminded me that life is finite. I check in with myself more closely now to ask if I’m living fully and true to my intended purpose, sucking all the marrow from life in a place of deep-seated joy. I can’t say I have all the answers, and surely the pursuit of figuring it out is joy enough.
I do believe one resonant truth, personified by The Fig — often underappreciated, yet utterly perfect in form, a bell curve gently descending from the neck into a round belly that hides thousands of tiny little fruits inside. That’s right, a fig is actually more inverted flower than fruit. If you believe yourself to have an inherent nature too, then to discover and live that most authentic self is your challenge. We often believe we shape and mold our outcomes, but this doesn’t leave room for a naturally impassioned trajectory. A contrived life can come dangerously close to extinguishing this innate force. Listen to the unsullied voice that bubbles up from deep within and support it when you observe it in those you love. Live it, stumble, fall, and try again. It’s in the trying that we discover how to live, how to be authentic. An unintended life is just a slow form of dying.
“The only question in life is whether or not you are going to answer a hearty ‘YES!’ to your adventure.”
— Joseph Campbell
“It is never too late to be who you might have been.”
— Mary Ann Evans, known only by her pen name, George Eliot, wanted to escape the stereotype that women only write lighthearted romances.
- ¼ bunch cilantro, leaves and stems separated, stems finely chopped
- 1 fresno or jalapeño chile, seeded if desired, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely grated
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 TBSP tomato paste
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp honey
- ¼ tsp allspice (or ½ tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp ground cloves)
- 1 TBSP sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 1 - 1.5 lb fish (choose your favorite. I prefer halibut or salmon. Original calls for skin-on black cod)
- 2 pints Sun Gold or cherry tomatoes, halved or whole, or both, depending on your available time)
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- thinly sliced prosciutto to taste
- fresh figs to taste, quartered or halved
- Preheat oven to 300° F.
- Mix cilantro stems, chile, garlic, olive oil, tomato paste, paprika, red pepper flakes, honey, allspice, and 1 TBSP vinegar in small bowl.
- Place fish in shallow baking dish.
- Scatter tomatoes around the sides of fish.
- Spoon chermoula on top of fish and spread across the surface with the back of a spoon.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Roast in oven until fish is cooked through and tomatoes are soft and some have burst, 20-30 minutes.
- Transfer fish to a platter, breaking into large pieces.
- Spoon tomatoes and roasting juices over fish.
- Drizzle with more vinegar if desired.
- Top with cilantro leaves, prosciutto, and figs.
- This makes a great leftover the next day served on greens for lunch 🙂
This post honors Alex, Evan, Yuriana, Erik, Araceli and Alejandra, each one a bright light with untold adventures ahead.