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Photographs by Meadow Linn

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

To Settle or Soar: The Story of the Mighty Tiny Colander


From a very young age, I developed a knack for making do. I loved reading The Joy of Cooking and then trying to recreate the delicacies found within its pages. Unfortunately, we seldom had all the ingredients necessary, so I taught myself to manage with whatever I could find. Cooking is much easier now that my pantry is stocked with everything from agar agar to teff flour, but I’m grateful that I learned to cook with what was available, because it taught me creativity and resilience in the kitchen.

Managing to get by with what’s at your fingertips can be a great skill. I’m in awe of Depression era housewives who made cake with tomato soup and created other treats essentially from nothing. Unfortunately, in some cases, making do means that you are settling.

Do you yearn for your life to be more joyous, more fun, or perhaps a bit easier, but feel like there’s nothing you can do but make do with your lot? Accepting what is can lead to overall satisfaction because you’re content with what you have. Other times, however, it can prevent you from spreading your wings and exploring beyond your immediate purview.

Sometimes we settle for big things, like a difficult relationship or an unfulfilling job, but often it’s a number of little things that add up. In my case, it’s one very little thing that opened my eyes to how easy life improvement can be. We can choose to accept the way things are and be very content but if they’re not working for us, we can also choose to make a change.

A number of years ago I was cooking for a large retreat. The colander I was using was too small for the massive amounts of pasta I was draining. One of the workshop participants commented on this and asked why I didn’t have a larger colander. A simple answer would have sufficed; however, I found myself giving her a long explanation of why I had that particular colander. The sink was too small. It wasn’t possible to purchase a larger colander without having a membership to a restaurant supply. Etc. I had a long list. I truly believed these reasons. So, I continued to struggle with an overflow of steamed broccoli and quinoa that cascaded over the rim of the colander.

My dad overheard this conversation and decided to look for colanders online. Within minutes, he’d found one that was big enough to handle my needs but not so large that it wouldn’t fit in the sink. And, it wasn’t expensive and he didn’t need special paperwork to purchase from a restaurant supply. Within days, it was on the doorstep and ready to be used. The fix was so easy. I spent more time coming up with excuses for my small colander than it took to remedy the situation. A colander, obviously, doesn’t compare to a difficult situation in the workplace or a challenging relationship, but it serves as a reminder to me that sometimes what we think is hard is actually simple, once we release our hold on the way we think things are or how we think they have to be.

My high school math teacher would say this when we would get stuck.
Whenever I find myself making do or feeling trapped in a situation, I remember the colander. Taking control of your life need not take a lot of time or energy, but the rewards can be huge. Often the hardest part is admitting to yourself that you need to make a change. Stepping beyond what’s comfortable and rocking the boat can be scary, but you might just find a whole world that you never dreamed possible. I know it sounds silly, but I really believed I was stuck with the small colander. It never occurred to me that I could change this circumstance.

Once you take the decision to change your course, the rest will follow. Not in the case of the colander, of course, but with bigger life decisions, sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. But simply making that step and deciding that you don’t want to just make do, can alter the course of your life and make way for brilliant, shimmering new opportunities to come your way.

Action Steps


Do you ever settle? Do you find yourself simply making do? What stories do you tell yourself to explain why things are a certain way? Are these stories true? What steps can you take today to make a change? Maybe it’s something as simple as googling “large colander,” or maybe it’s something larger…something in your relationship, career, or family. It’s not necessary to leap all at once, but there can be value in knowing that the options are available when you choose to fly.


Simple and Delicious Homemade Almond Milk

Eating healthy and delicious food is one area of my life in which I have never settled or made do. I’m constantly striving for the most delicious combinations and the most healthful and joyous ways to enjoy my meals.

Since my body doesn’t handle dairy well, and I’ve recently discovered that carrageenan—an additive in many non-dairy milks—was wrecking havoc on my digestive system, I’ve started making my own almond milk. I've been making it off-and-on for years, but now that I'm in the habit of doing it every week, I've discovered that it’s really easy. Plus, it tastes so good!

You can make nut milk with just nuts and water; however, the dates and salt help to mimic the slightly sweet and salty flavor of dairy milk.

Makes about 4½ cups


1 cup almonds, soaked overnight
4 cups filtered water
1-4 dates, pit removed (if they’re hard, soak them with the almonds)
1 pinch of salt (preferably Himalayan or other artisanal sea salt)

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth, 1-3 minutes. If you’re using a Vitamix, run the machine until the milk starts to get slightly warm. This seems to add creaminess. Strain* and enjoy!



* You can purchase a “nut milk” bag online for about $10. I use a bag designed for making jelly. Although I've never tried, I’ve heard people say they’ve had luck with multiple layers of fine-weave cheesecloth or clean nylon stockings. Pour the mixture through the bag in batches and squeeze to extract the milk.


** The leftover nut pulp can be used as a body scrub. However, I usually feed it to my chickens. I’ve also heard that you can use it to make raw “crackers” in a food dehydrator, but I haven't tried this. Or, of course, you can compost it.