“Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance.”
-Yoko Ono, Season of Glass
As a modern dancer, one of the first things you learn is not just to focus on what happens inside of your own body, but also on experiencing the space around you. Many classes start with a wide-eyed walk around the studio, feeling the energy of the space, heating it up, getting the air molecules flowing around you in perpetual motion with the limbs and breath. Different spaces evoke different sensations and when working creatively with your body, it is important to be in tune with these nuances. After the spacial warm-up, I always find myself so much more connected- not just to the place, but to my own tangible self and to the people around me. It has got me thinking lately if this is an exercise that can be replicated in some form outside of a dance studio. A way to get us better connected to our surroundings and to each other. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could walk wide-eyed through every space we inhabit?
Part of this exercise, in contemporary dance, is understanding that even the seemingly empty and perhaps unexciting space of a blank white dance studio is, in fact, alive. Nothing is stagnant, nothing is still if we really pay attention. Everything is moving around us constantly and most often, cyclically. We can choose to ignore it, or we can choose to step in time with the natural rhythm and dance with our surroundings.
While sometimes it can be difficult to get in touch with that natural sensation when you live in a big heavily-populated city and not in a cabin in the woods or cave in the mountains, I believe there are little ways in which we can clear the space’s clutter and plug into nature’s cycles.
Today happens to be May Day, so the first way of connecting with our space that automatically comes to my mind is through ritual. I have fond memories of celebrating May Day in Minneapolis, where Heart of the Beast Theater heralds in Spring + Summer with puppets, a parade and an homage to the return of the sun and longer days of light. Our environment and surroundings can be felt and honored through these kinds of holidays, solstices, and repetitive traditions.
Another small way that I have personally been using to get more in tune with space and cycles is by cooking and eating seasonally. In Morocco, the seasonality of produce is not something you have to go digging for. You can feel that spring is in full blast without even consulting a calendar, just by seeing the piles of strawberries loaded on carts, dripping ripe juices behind them as they roll by. Mid-summer figs are absolutely impossible to find in winter, so you had better enjoy them while the sun is high, and don’t even try to find pomegranates during any other month outside of October + November. With fruit and certain vegetables, we are ruled by the seasons here and therefor forced to be in touch with the cycles and demands of the natural surroundings. It keeps us grounded. It keeps our eyes wide open.
Living here has also happened to introduce me to certain local fruits that I did not even know existed before recently. The humble little loquat, for example, was totally unknown to me until my first April in Tangier when I started to see these small orange orbs appearing everywhere, people in the street stopping by vendors to buy one or two, peeling off the skins and biting into it on the spot, letting the large brown pits fall into the nearest gutter. The first time I tried one, I wasn’t sure if I liked it. It was not particularly sweet, but not as tangy as citrus. There is something in the flavor akin to an apricot, but I have heard other people compare them with green apples. However you describe it, I found that they grew on me and eventually I was compelled to buy an entire kilo this year and figure out what in the world could be baked with them, while they are still in season.
This recipe is basically the result of two separate experiments coming together in one delicious + decadent weekend breakfast. I have been wanting to try baguette baked french toast for a while, and recently I wanted to make something with loquats. Two birds with one stone, you could say. The flavor of this french toast is warming and spicy, with just the right amount of sweetness and a slight tart edge due to the fruit morsels. With an extra drizzle of honey or syrup and a mug of coffee or tea on the side, it makes the perfect cozy springtime brunch. It is my little homage to getting in touch with the space that April/May creates.
Gingered Loquat French Toast Bake
Makes about 6 servings
*Note: This recipe is best made the night before, but you can also get up early and let the bread soak for a couple hours before you are ready to serve. Also, if you can't find loquats where you are, I am sure this recipe would be delicious with apricots, plums, or apples.
- 1 medium day-old baguette, thickly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups soy/almond/dairy milk
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 cup (about 7-8 small) peeled, pitted + chopped loquats
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp lemon juice
In a small saucepan, combine all of your ingredients for the gingered loquats over medium-low heat and stir. Allow the mixture to begin to simmer, cook + stir for another couple minutes, then remove from heat and let it cool.
While the mixture cools, coat the bottom of a medium-sized baking pan (mine is about 11x7") with a thin layer of butter, then arrange the baguette slices in vertical rows. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla, spices and honey. Pour evenly over the bread, then dollop the loquat mixture on top, spreading evenly and pushing it gently in between the bread slices. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat your oven to 375ºF, remove the cover, sprinkle the top of the french toast with some granulated or brown sugar, and place in the oven to bake for about 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with a drizzle of syrup or extra honey.