TENDING the TABLE

Grape and Fennel Soda

When I think back over the last three years I’m struck by the human capacity to persevere. Despite the waves of grief, fear, sadness and anxiety that struck unexpectedly and repeatedly, I’m still standing and I’m stronger than ever before. We are all stronger than before.

At our wedding, Anders promised to help me see my innate strength, knowing that fear and insecurity were woven into my being. Now, almost three years later, after my sister’s suicide, my mom’s heart attack, what felt like the beginning of the end of my marriage, months of panic attacks and therapy, political upheaval, and raging wildfires, I can finally feel the scales tipping in favor of courage and strength. One of my Ayurvedic teachers once told me that we are not programmed to be afraid, we are programmed to be courageous. I remember loving that sentiment, but not being able to really believe in its truth. At the time, it felt too far from my reality. But, I’m finally beginning to believe in a new reality. I am strong and I am safe. I am strong and I am safe. I used to repeat these words to myself almost daily, hoping that the power of positive affirmation and repetition would change me. It wasn’t the words that changed me though. It was experiencing so much pain and fear, sitting with that discomfort, and learning, ever so slowly, that this too shall pass. I’ve always believed that our lives are an opportunity to better ourselves and the world. But I think I finally understand what that really means. It’s about facing each year, week, day, hour and moment with acceptance of the present. Don’t push it away, distract, or discount those feelings. Breathe in, breathe out and sit with it. Stare it in the face and  it will lose its power over you.

I know I’m rambling and getting a little preachy, so let me explain. We’re leaving tomorrow for three weeks. I’ll be in Charleston for a few days for the Saveur Awards then we’re off to Italy for a yoga retreat followed by a road trip through Tuscany. The anniversary of Maya’s death is next week, followed by our wedding anniversary and then my birthday. It’s going to be a lot, but it also feels like the first real vacation we’ve had, just the two of us, in a long time. So I guess I’m feeling a little sentimental and reflective.

To celebrate the journey I’ve got the recipe for this Grape and Fennel Soda for you, and let me tell you, it’s a keeper. I wasn’t sure how the flavors would work but I’m so glad I trusted my instincts and went with it. This soda is SO GOOD! Enjoy…

*Be sure to follow my travels on Instagram and tag photos of my recipes  with #tendingthetable. 

Grape and Fennel Soda

Serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS

8 ounces concord grapes

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

1 tablespoon cane sugar

1/2 cup water

crushed ice

soda water

PROCEDURE

Remove the grapes from the vine and place in a small pot. Add the fennel seeds, sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the temperature to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the syrup to steep for 20 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve discarding the pulp.

Fill two 16-ounce glasses halfway with crushed ice. Divide the syrup evenly between the two glasses and top with soda water.