Some years ago, one sunny Sunday Jason was strolling down Melrose Avenue heading to a record store. Since he lived in the vicinity, he left his car at home that morning and walked up a few blocks to the destination. A 7-foot tall Indian man with crystal blue eyes, wearing a perfectly fitted grey suit and a white turban, approached him on the street, gently asked whether he could speak with Jason for a moment, and began to tell him things. Things about Jason, his life, his family, and challenges he was facing, all in great detail.

The accuracy of the stranger’s words was mind-boggling. The man warned Jason not to drive his red truck to get the haircut the following Saturday. How did he know??? Later that day, astonished Jason obeyed and cancelled the appointment he had scheduled at his friend’s hair salon in Malibu for that coming weekend.

Then the man said:

I KNOW IT IS NOT EASY FOR YOU TO GET UP IN THE MORNING. HOWEVER, YOU WILL BE VERY SUCCESSFUL IF YOU BEGIN TO RISE WITH THE SUN.

I realize it sounds very general for all of you. Unless you know my Jason. He’s one of the most responsible, organized, hardworking and disciplined people I know. And yet, getting him out of bed in the morning is one tricky process. It takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, and always involves me waking up beforehand in order to help Jason open his eyes and shake hands with each new day. As a child Jason was also diagnosed with a sleeping disorder that prevents him from getting a full night’s rest no matter how long he stays in his dreamland.

Bottom line is, getting up in the morning is difficult for Jason not because he’s lazy, but because it is acutely painful.

I’ve heard the story of the encounter on Melrose Avenue a few times over the last couple of years. I even tried to push Jason here and there to take the challenge and see what happens. Every time, however, my enthusiasm was met by my mate’s strong resistance. I brought it up again when we were in Europe last month, realizing that the upcoming jet-lag was going to play in our favor. We were going to wake up early in the morning quite naturally for the first few days anyways. Why not to stretch it into a 6-week period?

Jason took the bate. Hook, line, and sinker!

We’re three weeks deep into the life-changing exercise. My alarm clock is set for 6 AM Monday through Sunday and back. The first few days were AWE-AWE-AWE-SOME!!! I woke up chirping like a bird, loving the surrounding silence, the quiet, the stillness. As the jet-lag started to wear off, so did my joie de vivre at dawn. I walk around like a zombie, yawning till I get dizzy, with madness tinkering in the corners of my eyes.

My HONEY, on the other hand, the guy who used to speak in TONGUES when woken up before 9 o’clock, is now up and running by 7 AM and on his way to the gym. I look at him envious and bewildered…

WHO ARE YOU? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY BOYFRIEND??

Now throw our meatless diet on top of it and stand in my shoes! Though I think I’m over the edge and the worst is behind me. The experiment turned out to be a great creative challenge, and I can’t say that I failed. Over the last three weeks we’ve had a different meal every night, each one nutritionally dense, flavorful, and full of protein, like my PAPPARDELLE WITH WILD MUSHROOM SAUCE OVER SAUTEED KALE AND GREEN BEANS.

I have tons of wild mushrooms stored away, handpicked by my mother, cleaned and dried by her husband. I used some last week to make mushroom broth, of which a few ladlefuls went into the sauce you see above.

As usual, I improvised. I let the broth reduce in the saucepan, allowing for the mushroom flavor to intensify. Next, I added about a tablespoon of butter and a handful of previously soaked wild mushrooms. I dropped in a whole shallot and one bay leaf.

In the meantime, I brought a pot of water to a boil, seasoned generously with salt and cooked some pappardelle pasta (my favorite kind of pasta in the world!).

Back to my sauce, I lowered the heat to minimum, added a drizzle or two of heavy cream, a bunch of fresh dill, salt, pepper, and a touch of nutmeg. Stirred, once, twice, turn the heat off, discarded the shallot and the bay leaf, and voila. The sauce was ready.

So was the pasta. I drained it and tossed it back into its pot. I crumbled some goat cheese all over the steaming noodles, shoveled it around till the cheese melted, and poured my mushroom sauce all over that gorgeous meal. It rested with dignity over the bed of greens that I sauteed with garlic just minutes before.

Even though I still think of meat with a tear welling up in my eye, dinners like the one above sooth my torn nerves just fine. I wrap myself in that comfort and calmly count the days down…

Till Sunday!