Friday, November 4, 2011

Got Sisu?

Yep, I can hear you now...what the heck is "sisu"?

I liken it to the word "chutzpah" but it doesn't quite do it justice. The word "courage" doesn't quite cut it either. Sisu isn't quite as feisty as "moxie" nor as balanced as "equanimity".  It's true definition, if there really is one given the issues with any form of translation, is determination or the strength of one's will against all odds. Perhaps my bumper sticker ought to say, got guts? instead?

I've heard it said that it is the word that describes Finns and Finnish culture best.  The stoic, steadfast way we make a decision and stick with it come hell or high water.  Grim determination in times of struggle or hardship.  My husband may prefer to call it stubbornness (grin).

Me?  I like to call it both my blessing and my curse.

It's sisu that put me on a plane after I graduated college to go teach English in the Czech Republic right as Communism was falling.  It's sisu that strapped a 70 pound, ill-fitting pack full of gear on my back and sent me hiking for three weeks along the Continental Divide.  And it's sisu that put me on a bicycle to ride 500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago to raise money for AIDS research.

Cool stuff, right??!  All of these were most amazing experiences, even in their struggles...maybe mostly because of their struggles.  The best part of them is that I lived to tell the tales.

But sisu also kept me working like a dog through mono after a misdiagnosed cold six years ago until I was eventually forced to take an entire month off of work just so I could stop relapsing.  Sisu also kept me doing yoga after my back went out, eventually requiring a cortisone shot in my spine (!) and laying me out for the better part of a year from herniating two lumbar discs.

I can't help but wonder: can't I, just once, take the easier route?  Perhaps if I learned to better listen to my intuition the first time it tells me something, I could.

It may be incredible to witness what sisu allows us to accomplish, but sometimes it lacks a degree of sensibility...a knowing when to say when.  Not because we're giving up, but because sometimes our intuition has other important information to share.  Sometimes our intuition knows better than blind focus and determination.  Sometimes it tells us to let go instead.

It's a fine line.  Even as I write this I find myself tripping a bit over my words, my explanations. And perhaps this is why sisu is both a blessing and a curse for me. I value my intensity, my drive, my ability to pull off the impossible...the charge that comes with feeling that invincible is intoxicating. And yet, my life's path seems to be as much about not letting anything stand in my way as learning to temper it with trusting my intuition to tell me when it's better to turn down a different road.  Of course then, I need to listen to my intuition and act accordingly...the first time.

Seems to me, we all need to find a way for the sisu in our lives (oh, come have it, too!) and our intuition to work together in order for us to realize the best of each.  And live a more balanced life.

Now if only I could find a bumper sticker that says got intuition?.  You can bet it would be going on my car as well.//

What's For Dinner Tonight?
Tonight, I'm gearing up for homemade Pad Thai.  I love this recipe that I got from Karl, who owns the bakery.  A little fussy in prep, but in the end, quick and easy and delicious.

First, I fill up my electric kettle with water and get it boiling. Oh, wait. First, I mean, I start a fire (I love this time of year!) and then go downstairs and grab myself an Oktoberfest from the refrigerator.  Tonight's choice is Shell's, brewed locally in New Ulm, MN.

OK.  Where was I?

First, I fill up my electric kettle with water and get it boiling.  I put the wok on the stove and turn the heat on medium while I prep.  Hot is good, too hot is not good.  I've heard that you can never get a wok too hot, but I beg to differ...a small wok fire proves it.  Never need to do that again!

But I digress.

The trick with any kind of stir fry is to prep everything and line it up near the stove because once you start, it cooks quick, quick, quick!

Pad Thai
2 Tbsp tamarind concentrate
2/3 cup hot water
(mix these two together)

3 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp peanut oil
(add the first mix with these, whisk all together, set aside)

8 oz dried stick noodles (I use the thin ones)
2 Tbsp peanut oil
2 eggs, beaten
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 med shallot, minced
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
3 cups bean sprouts
5 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (I love cilantro, so I use more!)
1 lime cut into wedges

Cover the rice noodles with the boiling water.  Soak until soft, but not fully tender.  Drain and set aside.

Heat 2 Tbsp peanut oil in wok or large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and shallots, stirring constantly until lightly browned.

Add beaten eggs and stir to scramble.

Add rice noodles and toss to combine.

Pour fish sauce mixture over noodles, turn up heat and toss until noodles are evenly coated.

Toss in chopped peanuts, scallions and bean sprouts.

Mix well and cook for 1-2 minutes until noodles are tender.

Serve with cilantro and lime.

NOTE: My attempts at finding tamarind concentrate were difficult until I finally found an Asian grocery store and searched the shelves there.


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