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Monthly Archives: September 2011

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The table was a vital part of my childhood.  The table was a communal place; it was here you could air grievances, share tales of triumph, joys, and sorrows.  Shared experience was the star of the evening, not the food.  Food was the means of getting everyone to the table to be nurtured, then nourished. This is not to say that every communal meal of my lifetime has been an amazing experience, but the importance of sharing a meal with people I love is deep in my bones.  I appreciate that the table started out for me as a place for fellowship and community, as that nurtured a deep respect for those valuable things in my life.  The table for me now has evolved into a place where I can share delicious food that is healthy and life-giving for the people I love most.  I have begun the work of asking where my food comes from, so that I may better feed those at my table.  My journey with food is ever-evolving, but I am grateful to be tethered to the simple joy of sharing meals.

“You can eat food by yourself.  A meal, according to my understanding anyhow, is a communal event, bringing together family members, neighbors, even strangers.  At its most ordinary, it involves hospitality, giving receiving, and gratitude.”  Wendell Berry, Bringing It to the Table

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Last night I had the good fortune of feeding some dear friends, and I daresay this dish was almost as nourishing to us as our time spent together.

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad
adapted only slightly from Orangette

For salad:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 in pieces
1 medium garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. ground allspice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ of a medium red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley

For tahini sauce:
1 medium garlic clove, finely minced with a pinch of salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 Tbsp.  tahini
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Toss the diced squash with garlic, olive oil, allspice and a couple of pinches of salt.  Roast on a baking sheet for about 25 minutes, or until squash is tender.  Your house will begin to smell very good during those 25 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, make the tahini sauce by combining all ingredients.   When the squash comes out, mix with the chickpeas, onion, parsley and most of the sauce in a large bowl.  Taste and add more salt or sauce as your taste-buds require.

Enjoy!

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Recently, I have been thinking about time.

(1) It started when I was listening (devouring) this podcast featuring civil rights activist Vincent Harding.  He discusses the notion of time in our technology-driven, instant-gratification society, and how we have forgotten that some things take years and even lifetimes to see through.   I certainly am guilty of impatience in this way, and it’s a beautiful reminder for me to calm down and steadily pursue the things that are most important to me.

(2) Attuned to this idea of patience, I found a similar theme in this documentary I saw last weekend.  Not all work yields immediate results, and especially not the kind of work it takes to heal broken relationships and communities.  Attempting to heal fractured spaces requires truth-telling, and learning to believe truth takes time.  Lots of time.  How many relationships have been fractured with a lie?  If you are told you’re not good enough, how many times do you need to hear “You are of value” to reverse the lie?  Something like once a day for the rest of your life?  Steady pursuit; this is important work.

(3)  On pushing past the need for instant-gratification.  As a creative person, I need to hear this everyday:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.— Ira Glass

(4) A different tune, but some of the same notes:  These works of art take much time to create, and much less time to be naturally destroyed.

(5) Lastly: An interesting series on (literal) things that matter most during a lifetime, and what would be saved if time was short.

 

What is your time for?

 

To begin, an excerpt from Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer–this is a conversation between the author and his grandmother regarding the extreme lack of food during WWII:

“I became sicker and sicker from not eating, and I’m not just talking about being skin and bones…It became difficult to move…

“The worst it got was near the end.  A lot of people died right at the end, and I didn’t know if I could make it another day.  A farmer, a Russian, God bless him, he saw my condition, and he went into his house and came out with a piece of meat for me.

“He saved your life.”

“I didn’t eat it.”

“You didn’t eat it?”

“It was pork.  I wouldn’t eat pork.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean why?”

“What, because it wasn’t kosher?”

“Of course.”

“But not even to save your life?”

If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.

 

In our culture of convenience, we tend to ignore the moral complexities that exist within our relationships to food.  To make matters more complicated, these “moral complexities” exist in every level of food consumption, from fast food to bags of spinach in the grocery store.  The fast food example is more obvious; at this point we have all seen pictures of factory farms, and if we are oblivious to what goes on in that world, it is because we choose to be  so.

The regular bag of spinach at the grocery?  Spinach is one of the “Dirty Dozen”: vegetables that have the highest residue of pesticides, and therefore are the most important to buy organically.  Enter what I believe to be a two-step moral dilemma:

1. When you purchase vegetables that are not organic, you expose your body to pesticides and put your own health at risk.

2. When you purchase vegetables that are not organic, you support growers who are not treating our shared planet with care.  Heavy usage of pesticides has compromised the health of the soil, which directly contributes to loss of nutrients in the food grown in it.  Even more troublesome is the toxicity added to the environment by non-organic farming practices.  (For further study, see this Top 10 list of reasons to support organic.)

Let me put my whole-hearted support behind this statement of the incredibly wise Wendell Berry:  “Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.  This is a simple way of describing a relationship that is inexpressibly complex.  To eat responsibly is to understand and enact, so far as one can, this complex relationship.”  (Bringing It to the Table)

 

If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.

What matters for our lives and our health is the life history of the food we consume.   What matters for the earth is the life history of the food we consume.  What matters for generations to come is the life history of the food we consume.  In self-defense, in defense of the ground you walk on, in defense of your children and children’s children, learn where your food is coming from, and at what cost.

There is much to save.