candied orange peels

there have been some events this past couple of week that caused me to think about, well, really rather serious topics. firstly, i went to see that movie “about time” with my friends, which is this really cute and funny story about a guy falling in love, and generally just an ode to life and love. basically, the message is that we should learn to enjoy life the way it is, with all of its ups and downs and rough edges. the other blissful event – and i’m determined to mention it as often as possible, as you have, without a doubt, already noticed – is my friends’ wedding that took part some weeks ago. it was such a momentuous weekend, filled with laughter, warmth, friends and love. definitely a highlight. to tie in with this topic, i’ve met someone for lunch last week who asked me a lot of questions about myself. you know, the type of questions that really make you think, like “what’s the biggest source of happiness in my life?” and “are there any things in my life that i don’t enjoy?”. caused by all of these events, i’ve thought about what makes me happy – and what doesn’t. so, pure and simple, are you ready for the balance of accounts?

when i look at my life, honestly, there is a lot of “standby time”. just simple moments that are lived, but then again, not really intensively so. generally not unhappy, but not really euphoric either. just this wave of insignificance. then of course, there is sometimes this (seemingly endless) row of (boring or annoyingly inefficient or both) meetings, never ending cleaning and administration at home and general hard work. those are the things that are part of every one’s lives. but then, just occasionally, there are the “big life moments”, as i call them, that make all of the other life time worth while. the days with a hightlight, marked pink in the calendar, anticipated for weeks, special moments with a silver lining. like the occasional wedding, an extensive dinner party, a reunion with old friends, a thorough chat with someone you love, a summer holiday, a short weekend trip or a visit from a friend who lives abroad, quality time on your own. those are the moments where happiness is so acutely present that you feel like you’re on a temporary high (and i totally intended this to be a bit of a double meaning, because it really feels a bit out of this world and surreal to be in such a “happy bubble”). the other side of the coin being, of course, that after each and every big life moment is over, your happy bubble would burst, and you would simply end in depression. somehow, every high high seems to entail a low low…

this allows me to question the concept of happiness altogether. it appears to be something so short-lived, scary, even, and rather unpredictable. and the imminent down times would become big and all consuming. the quest for happiness seems to turn us into prostitutes for fun. but fun is a fickle thing; it hardly lasts forever. that brings up the question if it’s not better to just have a more balanced amplitude of happiness: no highs – but also no lows. or do we need the lows to enjoy the highs even more? or, do we need to manage our happiness better? like, institutionalise little happiness snacks? maybe it needs to come in tiny, digestible portions – but on an everyday basis, instead of only every couple of weeks.
maybe the rule to happiness is, that we do not only live for the “big life moments” (see above) – of which, granted, there are currently many, many in my life, and aren’t i awfully blessed – but also enjoy the everyday hustle and bustle of simple, pure, stripped to bare and raw “living”. for example the tram rides to work where someone next to you is listening to music all too loudly (could be annoying, but you could turn it around and just see pleasure in it, too). the hot bath in the evening and how peaceful a moment it is. a long hug. no, wait, hold on to me a little longer! a good read in bed. fairy lights being hung out to light up the dark and cold season. a thorough laugh that makes your bellie hurt. someone cracking up over you (falling over your own feet). a slice of really good, heavily buttered sourdough bread. yes, maybe, happiness isn’t related to big moments, alone. maybe it’s in the detail. maybe we should learn to detach it from “the importance” and take it towards “the insignificance”. maybe we need to analyse our lives and make a balance of accounts about the things that we like and the things that we don’t like. and then get rid of the things that bother us, outsource them, or at the very least try and put some love and meaning into them, to turn them around into something valuable.
i’m aware that the concept of happiness is a fragile one, and that it’s sometimes too much to ask to find the beauty in a day, say, if everything is simply going wrong from the start. actually, today wasn’t such a great and fun day – but i tried very hard to just chat a bit more with people that i normally wouldn’t have the time to chat with. or to hang onto every word someone said where normally i would just tune out. i took the time to enjoy the rawness of it all. it’s not a big day with a lot of bling and potential to be remembered forever, but it’s just really a part of life that i need to enjoy. because there are only so many days, so many dreams, so much life time. i hope those efforts will somehow make the happiness more reliable and less perishable and volatile.

candied orange peels

4 organic oranges
3 cups sugar
100 g dark chocolate

wash each orange with hot water. pat dry. chop off the top and bottom of the orange. now slice the orange with a knife from top to bottom (make quarters) and remove the peel in one piece, carefully. now slice the quarters into thin long strips (about 1cm wide). bring water to a boil. blanch the orange peels for 2 minutes, then drain. repeat this process 3 times; boiling water, blanching quickly, draining. this helps remove the bitterness from the orange peels and renders them soft. then, bring the 3 cups of sugar together with 2 cups water to a boil, add the orange peels and cook for 15 minutes in the sugar syrup. let cool in the syrup, then remove the strips and dry them on a rack and leave to dry (maybe overnight won’t hurt). melt the chocolate, veeeery slowly (or, if you’re not the patient kind, better do it in a bain marie), dip each orange peel strip in the melted chocolate with one end, then lay out to dry (on a rack or on parchment). leave to dry, then store in an airtight container in a cool dark place.

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