The kitchen is blissfully silent. Unless you really listen. Then you can hear birds outside or the occasional car (this is not the same as an occasional table). Every now and then there is a click from the fridge, followed by a hum. Then there are the many unidentifiable sounds the house makes. Among this, and behind the general sounds of life there are noises I can’t hear that the dog alerts me to, jumping up at ghosts or a postman four streets away.
Finally, slowly sliding away as the calm embraces me is the noise of my mind. That’s always the hardest one to escape. But this tempest will give me leave to ponder, as long as I find a calm place. With a little time and space, the silence finds its way in.
Ferris Bueller said, in John Hughes’ masterpiece that “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” This applies to your mind too. Don’t forget to stop and look around yourself every now and then. You really shouldn’t miss that.
These days are full of distraction. With so much going on around us, so many things competing for our attention, we have lost our contentment to just ‘be’. Often you see someone leave a conversation with a friend, perhaps to make a cup of tea or go to the loo just for the other person to instantly reach to check their phone. As if, without constant stimulation, they will perish, a shark unable to stop swimming in the sea of consuming useless information.
There is too much choice, too many choices. We are paralysed by opportunity. The touch of a screen and we are slaves to information rather than masters.
But as I stand here, watching the heavy cast-iron pan getting hotter, my mind is emptying. And as the rhythm of stirring the almonds, pistachios and peanuts becomes a hypnotic motion I feel light and in the moment. It’s only a simple pause in the day, fifteen minutes or so. There is no need to be afraid of the silence, afraid of yourself.
Virginia Wolf said in ‘Moments of being’, that “every day includes much more non-being than being … a great part of every day is not lived consciously.” But I’m sure none of us will look back on our lives wishing we had done more housework. Much of life means that we are constantly dealing with what has to be done, but we need to find some time to stir a pan of nuts in silence for ten minutes, or sit quietly with or without a cup of tea, looking out the window, just ‘being’.
To make these nuts, which are hard to stop yourself from going back to time and time again (but that’s another issue), mix together a handful of almonds, (skin on is more interesting) some red skin peanuts, a pinch of pistachios and a large pinch of salt. When the pan — cast-iron is best — is too hot to hold your hand over for more than a few seconds, add the nuts.
Stay there, with your wooden spoon and gently stir. Turning them over and around until they start to toast and darken. Take your time. Now add some spices — cumin and chilli powder are good here, but my favourite mix is gunpowder — and perhaps some sunflower seeds. Stir in a tablespoon of groundnut oil, stir agin until everything is well coated and turn off the heat. Leave the nuts to cool completely before eating and store in an airtight container.
And don’t forget, sometimes you just need to get the deep-fat fryer out, make a big bowl of chips and watch telly. And then have some cake.