Mild early winter weather, not unlike a cool summer day, the valley sleepy, fields ploughed gold and contented bees thrumming away. I’ve hung out washing and watered plants, set out spring onions ( scallions) and bunches of parsley and coriander, young carrots and a small drumhead cabbage to be peeled and sliced fine for some kind of Asian slaw. A solitary ripe mango and two limes. A little cold cooked chicken breast in the fridge, a handful of what the Italians call ‘blettes’, the central rib of Swiss chard leaves, saved from last night’s minestr9ne. Nothing wasted, simple cooking in small portions.
I found an interview with food writer Tamar Adler that resonated so deeply for me on this question of how we learn to eat well and stop wasting food, pay more attention to preparing food with care and thoughtfulness:
[S]ustainable cooking — real sustainable cooking — not simply sustainably raised ingredients, but the kind of cooking that’s required if we’re going to be responsible eaters, which means using everything. Practically and inevitably, if you use all of something, you’re completely changing the impact your consumption has on the world. You become an incredibly low-impact eater if you start using your stems and peels and stale bread. And I feel — as I said about drawing people away from something — that drawing people to a good practice that would inevitably move them away from bad practices is better than saying, “to eat sustainably you need to use all of everything.” Using everything, as opposed to seeing what you have and thinking about what you’re missing is what we’re talking about as kind and tender cooking. That difference in perspective is at the heart of all kindness and tenderness — right? It’s the fact of having, versus the fact of having and thinking you still need something else.
Without falling into sentimentality, I do think that kindness and tenderness are as necessary, as needed, in the kitchen as next to the bed of a sick friend. Whatever softens within us at the sound of another’s pain, reaches out to offer help or support or just being there as a loving witness. The place in us that glows with warmth when we see children playing or hear loved pieces of music. The heart of flesh that was once oblivious, a heart of stone, now tender and filled with aliveness, longings, heartbreak, hopefulness. The toast we butter, the soup we offer, the left-overs reinvented.
I’ve posted this from Naomi Shihab Nye before, but it always touches me:
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
The landscape I call home, a place that for me is filled with memories and stories. This is a promotional video, so not gritty enough or nakedly truthful enough, but it is all I can find –