Roasted shrimp with feta and fennel

“The past and future are just thoughts happening in the present.” Author Unknown

I was listening to NPR the other day and some bigwig from one of the investment firms, which was bailed out, was speaking to the interviewer. Apparently, one of the CEOs is irritated because the government made money on the deal. I don’t remember exactly what it was all about.

The nugget of wisdom I pulled from listening to this interview was when the person being interviewed started talking about how there was nothing they could do about the deal they made in the past except for live with it. He said his daughter’s friend came over for dinner one night and stated, “I’ve given up all hope on a better past.” After hearing this, I smiled, my eyes lit up and I thought those are some words of wisdom. There’s nothing anyone can do about the past. Wasting time on worrying about the past or the future is pointless.

Don’t let the present slip away. Every time our minds wander to a past event or what we believe the future will bring, we take away from living in the present moment. You cannot savor the here and now if you allow yourself to do this.

This is also called mindfulness. Mindfulness is an open and intentional awareness of the present. By being with your thoughts moment to moment, you awaken to experience. You don’t have to sit in a Buddhist temple meditating with the monks and nuns to do this, although, I did give that a try for a while.

You can do this with everything you do, all day, every day. You can do it while driving (my mind always wanders to the past or future when I drive), while brushing your teeth, while walking, and while cooking.

When I cook, I try not to think about how well I am doing it. Instead, I focus on each piece of the recipe, taking it all in. Most of what I cook for this column is new to me. So, it could end up tasting awful. I wouldn’t want to worry that what I am making might not taste good. So, I don’t. I realize that I have no way of knowing what the result will be. I just do it and put lots of love into each step. I become absorbed in the moment and usually my mind doesn’t wander elsewhere. If it does, I bring my attention back into focusing on the food. If I spent my time worrying about the outcome, I’m sure it wouldn’t turn out delicious. By focusing on the present, I feel much more peaceful. I don’t cloud my mind with past failures or the potential of a future failure.

This week, I made roasted shrimp with fennel and feta. My cousin Alex visited a few days ago and he came up with this idea. Alex is an amazing cook. He told me how we would saute the fennel with garlic and roast the shrimp in the oven at the end. I was so excited. Alex and I went to the market and bought everything we needed to whip this delicious sounding recipe up. Unfortunately, by the time we returned to my house, I wasn’t feeling well. We didn’t get to make it that day. So, a few days later, I was alone in the kitchen making it. I didn’t know if I would do it right. I just put that thought out of my mind and went for it. I had never cooked with fresh fennel before. I didn’t know if I should use the whole thing or just the bulb? I started chopping and winged it. I decided to use the whole piece of fennel. Whatever!

I became absorbed in the whole process. The fennel smelled amazing as it sauted in the skillet. I noticed how the little wispy fennel “leaves” almost melted into the pan. I enjoyed watching the garlic brown and sizzle in the olive oil. The white wine soaked and boiled and the tomato paste blended right in to make it a beautiful color. The skins of the tomatoes slowly peeled off the flesh and floated around in the sauce. I added seasoning and layered on the feta, shrimp and breadcrumbs. I thought about how I would arrange the shrimp. It looked beautiful as it went into the oven to cook the shrimp and brown the crumbs. I sat down with a glass of the white wine and waited. I felt completely peaceful and calm. I helped myself to a bowl of this when it came out of the oven. You wouldn’t believe how delectable it turned out. Thank goodness I didn’t waste any time worrying about how it would turn out or feeling bad that I got sick that day and I couldn’t share this with Alex. If I had, I am sure it wouldn’t have tasted this good.By

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