In the last few weeks, I’ve been pretty busy balancing work and volunteering and all my little side projects. One experience in particular keeps playing over and over in my head. Last weekend, I volunteered at a correctional facility – we’re talking small misdemeanors and light weight crimes – and I was blown away by the generosity and care of my fellow volunteers. They looked like your typical Bay Area “tech bros” and gals, armed with prestigious degrees and employers and privilege. But what separated them from the lot of tech bros we have in the Bay – these volunteers actually cared about who they were serving. They served with such dignity and graciousness, and I think the residents felt it too. There were smiles, there was human connection. Most of the volunteers stayed and chatted with the residents, long after we had served our meal. There were many rounds of chess, a few crossword puzzles being worked on, even a few helping read through paperwork and other documents. There is something so incredible and enriching about an experience like this. It gives me so much hope that there are still people out there who care to make these types of connections, who feel that it is still important to give back, who know that these small but meaningful actions have beautiful long-term consequences in the future.
What saddens me is that I’ve noticed that many students and children volunteer at their local soup kitchens and food pantries, but when they become working professionals and adults, they seem to lose sight of it and do not continue that activism. I can speculate any number of reasons for the atrition rate (lack of free time due to the demands of adulthood, resume-building volunteerism, fulfilling school or parental requirements, etc), but it still does not account for the huge attrition. I truly do believe that if each person dedicated just an hour or 2 each week (or even month!) to help one’s local community – whether it’s picking up garbage at the park, working with children in an afterschool setting, weeding in the community garden, cleaning kennels at the animal shelter, serving food to the poor, working to improve computer literacy, helping register and inform voters – the lives of the beneficiaries (and the givers!) would be so greatly improved. I really think there could be a domino effect here, where by building this human connection, we manufacture human empathy, we cultivate a culture of kindness, we nurture generosity, effectively mitigating hatred and all the associated negative behaviors that stem from hate. We begin the model the behavior we like, thereby mirror the behavior we expect from others. Maybe we can be the ones to stop the tidal wave of hatred and bigotry and ignorance that has seemingly infected our country. Are we so bold as to believe that kindness can improve the world? Are we so audacious as to believe that your and my generosity of time and resources can change the course of the future?
Semolina Cake with Strawberries and Cream
Loosely based on The Mediterranean Dish
I had this dessert at a Mediterranean restaurant nearby, and it was incredible! Moist and nutty – I absolutely love semolina flour. The recipe I tried wasn’t quite the same as the cake I had at the restaurant (so I’ll do more digging) – but this cake is pretty delicious. Tender and soft and sticky – so much yum, especially once grilled, then topped with some mascerated strawberries and a dollop of whipped yogurt cream. To make this a bit more Mediterranean, I flavored both the cake and cream with rose water and just a hint of vanilla, just to make things a bit more interesting. Enjoy!
1/2 c tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 c sugar
1 c plain yogurt [I used Greek
2 c semolina flour
1/3 c milk
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp rose water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 pints fresh strawberries
3 tbs sugar
Whipped Yogurt Cream:
1/2 c heavy whipping cream
1/3 c Greek yogurt
2-3 tbs sugar, or to taste
splash of rose water
Preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease a loaf pan or small cake round.
To prepare the batter, in a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar and yogurt, doing your best to beat out any lumps. Add the semolina, milk, baking powder, and melted butter, stirring to combine. Allow the mixture to sit for all the liquids to absorb. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake in oven for 30 minutes, or when a toothpick inserted into the batter comes out dry. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool to room temp.
Meanwhile, small dice all the strawberries and throw into a bowl. Add sugar as needed and give it a toss. The strawberries will start to mascerate in just a few minutes, but may take up to 30 minutes to really start releasing juices and becoming syrupy. Toss occasionally to help with the process. I used about 3 tablespoons, but you can adjust that based on how tart or sweet your berries are.
While waiting for the cake to cool and the strawberries to mascerate, whip the heavy whipping cream until peaks form. Add Greek yogurt, sugar to taste, and just a splash of rose water, and gently fold into the whipped cream until the sugar dissolves and the yogurt is incorporated.
When ready to serve, slice the semolina loaf cake into 1″ slices, and grill each slice until brown. Plate the slice and serve with yogurt cream and berries. Enjoy!
I mentioned little side projects… if you follow me on IG, you’ll already know. But here are a few peeks.
Thanks for reading,