Niçoise Salad: Simple and Delicious

I enjoyed my first Salade Niçoise in Cannes at Nellie’s table. Nellie was a legend in my childhood.  My grandparents first met her in Birmigham, AL in the late 40’s or early 50’s. Nellie, a former Miss Paris, had come to America as a coat model which somehow included a stop in Birmingham. On their first trip to Paris, my grandparents looked her up and took her to dinner. They learned more about this delightful Jewish Frenchwoman that evening. At the time she worked in a perfumier on the Place de la Concorde. Nellie married later in life.  “When she was young,” my grandfather told me, “the eligible Frenchmen were fighting. And after the war, well…” I never thought to ask how she, her mother and her brother survived the war in Paris, evading capture by the Nazis. Eventually Nellie met and married M. Grillot. By the time I met her, he was no longer alive.

When my dad was in the service in France he and my mom met Nellie. As the story goes, she babysat me so he and my mom could have a weekend away. More than two decades later, I was studying in France and made my way to Cannes where my mother told me Nellie had an aprtment. I had written to her at a Paris address but never heard back. It was late afternoon when my friend and I climbed the stairs to Nellie’s apartment and rang the bell.

It took more than a few minutes for her to make the time jump and understand that I was not my mother. That I was the “bébé” twenty years hence. She embraced me warmly, then my friend and insisted we stay for dinner and return for lunch the following afternoon. She was delightful. She was beautiful, smart and throughout the evening she would look at me and say as if not quite believing it, “Mais tu est le bébé?” Her chihuahua, Titine, had been trained to understand commands in Yiddish. Espé, her longtime housekeeper and companion served us my first Salade Niçoise. Here is a version I love to serve. And when I do, I think of this wonderful woman with delight. Here is Nellie’s sangria recipe saved from that visit in 1975.

photo credit: “French: Salade nicoise” by Katrin Gilger is licensed underCC BY-SA 2.0

 

From left to right: my grandmother Estelle, , my grandfather Abe, Nellie

 

HeartMath

HeartMath offers the possibility of neutralizing emotional reactions in the moment, reducing the impact of stress and recognizing what drains our energy and what renews it. I first heard about it a few years back during the Sedona Film Festival. I didn’t see the film but it stayed on my radar for a while.

From the HeartMath website: For more than 25 years, HeartMath Institute has been researching the heart-brain connection and learning how the heart influences our perceptions, emotions, intuition and health. HeartMath helps you tap into the power and intelligence of your heart – your heart’s intuition – which awakens you to the best version of yourself.

That last phrase “best version of yourself” seems more than a bit overused by now, but the rest of it continues to intrigue me. Could it be true that the heart is the real generator that speaks to the brain and not the other way around?  What is my heart’s intelligence and what does that even mean?

When a teacher in my yoga studio offered a four-week workshop      I signed up. Patti gave us a lot of information during our 90-minute Zoom session. What struck home was this sentence: “The mind has no power over the emotional domain of the body.” Read that again.  And again if you want.  The mind has no power over the emotional domain of the body.  To me that means that my brain can’t change my feelings. I can’t intellectiualize myself into or out of a mood or emotional state. As I understand it so far, I can develop a sense of what my energies are creating within me and how to modify/amplify them for my benefit.

“HeartMath gives us a choice point and techniques to go from depletion to renewal.” Energy in HeartMath lingo is not seen as good or bad but as replenishing or depleting. I loved that, taking the judgment out of what emotional/energetic state we are in. The ultimate goal is to be able to bring ourselves into a state of “coherence” in which the heart and the brain are “synchronous.”

After identifying situations that left us feeling depleted by worry, anger, frustration, resentment et al and how we dealt with them, we next listed situations that brought us feelings of ease. Our breath was focussed on the heart. This didn’t feel like meditating as much as it felt like getting to know a part of my body in a new way.  Lo and behold, a few breaths in there was sadness beneath the energy-depleters of worry and anxiety. That was a surprise and a useful piece of information.

Next we focussed on feeling the sensation of ease within our bodies. My energy renewing situations? Being in nature, playing with my granddaughters Olivia and Leah, painting!  The feelings I wrote down were free, excited, alive, present, adventurous. Focusing on those feelings while I breathed was certainly renewing.  And that was our homework for the week: With each breath, draw in the feeling of inner ease. No images, no words, simply shift attention to the area of my heart, breathe and notice.

Stay tuned!