“Be generous with your insights and delights. Instead of fearing that they’re going to slip away and holding on to them, share them.” – Pema Chödrön
I struggle with the fact that food (in general) is my real passion in life but is in no way my profession. I often romanticize about starting a butcher shop that specializes in local, sustainable meet products and sandwiches, but I’ve never gotten the gumption to do something about those fantasies. However, the realities of life keep holding me back. Questions nag at me when I think about his dream.
What would I do if I didn’t make money? What if the business totally failed? What would my hours be like? What would we do for health insurance? 401K? How do I reconcile this kind of business with a growing sense that I should eat less meat, or even completely go vegetarian?
Inevitably these questions and self doubt are too heavy for me to make the change. Perhaps someday. If not now, when? When I’m fifty?
I’ve been reading a lot of books written by Buddhist practitioners. They offer practical advice and guidance for living a life that is both physically and spiritually healthy. I came across the quote at the beginning of this post in a book called Start Where You Are. There are many ways I can live these words. It occurred to me that sharing my cooking is one way to practice this teaching.
I spent the bulk of the week cooking for the Thanksgiving feast. Since I have a bum left hand right now, the cooking was slower than usual and I needed to get some help from my family. (I farmed out sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes, both of which were lovely when they arrived at the house already prepared.) I started on Monday, took Tuesday off, and then cooked most of the day on Wednesday and all day on Thursday.
Wednesday, Mrs. TKD wanted to get take out for dinner, to give me a break. But I was determined to make a meal for our guests. After all, they had driven between 5 and 9 hours to get to our house. I thought they deserved a good meal prepared fresh, rather than some take out. I knew that they’d appreciate a home cooked meal, and indeed they did. And it didn’t take too much more energy out of me.
Thursday was, of course, a marathon of cooking. Not only was it Thanksgiving, but it was Mrs. TKD’s birthday. I started cooking at 7:00 AM. Scones, pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Then I started cooking Thanksgiving dinner. It was an all day affair, even with the advanced cooking and farming out of some of the sides.
Before we sat down to dinner, I offered a blessing of sorts. I’d come across these words in my readings over the summer. When I was reading In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan, I was struck by his recommendation to offer a blessing at every meal. I’ve not been a good practitioner of this suggestion, but I do like the suggestion. The blessing need not be tied up with religious imagry. The following words will do just fine:
Eating with the fullest pleasure — pleasure, that is, that does not come from ignorance — is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection wtih the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend. — Wendell Berry
These words remind us of our connections to the earth. They remind us that eating is pleasurable, and rather than deny that pleasure, we should celebrate in this fact. They also remind us of the gratitude and debt we owe to the creatures that sustain us through out our lives. It was quite a feast, and everyone enjoyed it, as witnessed by the silence that fell across the room as we ate.