Riding through the crazies.

So here’s something you might have noticed: the characters in those delicious coming-of-age stories, the one that are always all the rage? They’re never a day past 25 (if that). The over-30-and-40-something people? They’ve already come of age. They’re full-grown, and their angst-of-now stories are called mid-life crises.

Our stories, I mean, not theirs.

Mine, I mean, not ours. Although maybe it is yours, too.

Riding through the crazies

But the spirit of the second story, the uneasy middle-aged one, is always firmly rooted in retrospection. One thread is the main event; the other is just a prequel, set during the time when we worried about meaning and heartbreak, not whether our knees and rotator cuffs would show up for work each day.

Tale as old as time, our first big stories include bygone innocence, reward through hardship, wisdom through loss, et cetera, et cetera. Then, in the end, that prequel narrative tilts either toward peace or toward wistfulness. It’s that place where the protagonist either accepts the choices of the past or doesn’t.

Right there, right at that point, that’s where the crazies come in, if allowed, to subvert the main story’s plot line.

what if what it what if what if what if

Unlike a coming-of-age, field of discovery tale, mid-life anxiety plays out on a precipice overlooking a downhill slope. If the crazies take the narrator’s seat, then it’s a story told while trying to ride a narrow crest and lasso something that escaped, all without either slipping back into juvenile folly or falling into the deep. It’s a yarn of impending acceleration: fast, though not always furious; manic; though not necessarily depressed. what if what if what if. It’s an infinite conundrum, enough to make anyone nuts.

“Maybe it’s not too late!” the middle-aged crazy says, teetering on that razor’s edge. It’s not too late to buy a sports car and swim naked and sing karaoke. To be a contender.

Or maybe that hero could stop living in the prequel, let memoirs be memoirs, because, friend, that story is O-V-E-R. Maybe the main narrative, the one that really counts, could ignore the crazies, steer clear past what if what if what if and just be the story of now, a view from the crest overlooking the cliff, the best view of all time, ever, no matter how the coming of age played out.

So what tale are you working on, cliff rider? Are you flailing with a lasso or breezing along the crest? You get to decide. Only you.

Happy week.


Food | Week of January 26, 2015

Speaking of throwbacks, here’s one from last year – a repeat weekly menu because I’m working on something new, something to do with menus, something good that you’ll like. But it’s not ready yet, so this week I’m afraid you get what you get, a blast from the past. Hope there’s at least something you liked.

LinguinBroccolii with lemon, baby clams & fresh parsley

This is an easy and delicious dish, one that tastes as good cold the next day as when it’s hot and fresh.  Cook linguini per package directions.  While pasta is boiling combine in a glass bowl: 1 can baby clams, mostly drained; juice of one large lemon; ½ bunch (or more) fresh parsley, chopped; 1 clove garlic, pressed or very finely minced; olive oil and salt.  Drain pasta, put it back in the pot; pour the clam/ lemon/ parsley mix over the hot pasta and toss well.  Top with grated Parmesan cheese.  Serve with steamed broccoli (or some other green thing).potatoes

Parker’s Fish & Chips (Barefoot Contessa)

This is one of the easiest meals to prepare, and my family always enjoys it.  The recipe, available here at Food Network, is from ye olde stand-by Barefoot Contessa Family Style.

Avgolemono | Spinach SaladLemon blossom

Many, many years ago I cut out a recipe for Avgolemono (Greek chicken and rice soup with lemon) and made it every week during the winter.  It’s lighter than chicken & dumplings, but only a bit, and the tang of fresh lemon brightens any cold day.  This recipe from Serious Eats is close to mine, although I do add shredded poached chicken.  Now if only my Meyer lemon tree would produce fruit so I could make this more often….  Serve with spinach salad (red onion and mandarin oranges). Green cabbage

Carnitas with Salsa Verde

From Alice Waters’s The Art of Simple Food, page 45: “Salsa Verde, the classic green sauce of Italy, is a sauce of olive oil and chopped parsley flavored with lemon zest, garlic, and capers.”  Serve with carnitas (p. 359) and buttered cabbage (p. 297). There are equivalents to all of these recipes online, but none of Waters’s originals.  Buy the book; you’ll like it.  

Vegetable Plate

Brussels sprouts| Butternut squash | Polenta | Saladwinter squash

Roast the butternut squash (peeled, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt) and the Brussels sprouts (olive oil, salt and a bit of balsamic vinegar), though not in the same pan.  Serve with either grits or polenta and either salad or leftover cabbage.


All words and images belong to me, Jennifer Balink. Want to borrow? Please ask first.


  1. I love how you combine your thoughts and your food in the same post like a fine meal. So many thoughts in your post resonated with me. Thanks for voicing them.

    To answer your last thought, I’m not on the cliffs or in the waves because I have to have my feet on the ground. I am in a little cabin nearby watching out the window. But taking on writing towards publishing is my cliff dive I suppose, at the same time that I feel settled in other ways, comfortable with my age finally.


  2. I’m with you, Jenny, and I hope I continue to be there. There’s always a view, wherever you are. Always. And there’s always opportunity. Opportunity for reflection, opportunity for growth, opportunity for cliff diving.
    Beautiful piece.


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