Saturday, November 22, 2008

A web of relationships

I stand here in my kitchen, listening to this great mix put together by this great 10-year old, meditatively making this fantastic recipe. I would love to be an intuitive cook but I do honestly believe that it takes fundamentals and experience to develop intuition, and playing around with recipes has been one of the best ways for me to develop that intuition. I know this isn't true for everyone, but it's what works for me.

It's been awhile since I cooked for pure relaxation [well, tonight isn't pure relaxation, I'd headed off into ~20 degree/feels like ~10 degree weather for a potluck with friends. Relaxation + fun!]. When school heats up and life gets busy, as much as I like to be in the kitchen, it is more a function of expediency than it is about relaxation and intentional living, slowing down enough to contemplate the meal I am making for myself and to get lost in the rhythm of cleaning, chopping, mixing. Making. But I just finished a week of assignments and fly home to CA in a couple days to see friends and family [already? It came so fast!], and I'm really luxuriating in the brief respite before the post-Thanksgiving-pre-winter break storm hits.

Standing at the kitchen counter, breathing in the fragrant, refreshing scent of mint leaves - one, I need to cook with fresh herbs more, period. Two, I should have fresh herbs in my life, period. I wonder if I could grow mint indoors in winter - I love how it smells, how it tastes steeped in tea, the way it livens up meals in such a unique way.

It reminds me of my time this summer on the farm, the way we used to steep pots of strawberry leaves and assorted leaves - basil, thyme, lemon basil, mint (not always all together, but sometimes my friends, sometimes we were wildly adventurous) - to wake up to, or for the middle of the afternoon, or to warm us up right before we turned in for bed. The way the strawberry leaves used to turn the water red, a mass of green drifting aimlessly in dusky red tea like a private glimpse into an underwater oasis. The medicinal uses of strawberry leaves, or honey, or buckwheat, all that "folk" wisdom that we've lost in our shift to cities so large we could not cross them on foot if we tried.

There was so much that I learned in my short weeks with Lorna and Carl. Not just a stereotypical escape from busy modern life [although it was that, as well] but more about a way of life, a life history, the cultural fabric woven into the landscape of our very nation that we are busy forgetting about, burying ourselves in the acoutrements of industrialized living that we forget what it means to live from land to self to mouth and back again.

A year ago I had no idea strawberry leaves were good for alleviating PMS symptoms, and now I probably couldn't find them if I tried. Not that I need them, persay, but we already have a lot of the answers to our problems existing in this living, breathing planet, embedded in the ecology instead of bred in our laboratories. Not that I'm against modern medicine or pharmaceuticals, but I love the tender web of relationships that exist in nature, love feeling those subtleties. I'd love to feel self-sufficient or steeped in intimate knowledge of the natural world.

Maybe that's one of the reasons I love food and love spending time in the kitchen, and why I should get myself back there more often in a relaxed state of being, rather than rushing my way through the process and bumping into every conceivable drawer, knocking over all sorts of utensils in the process and making mess after mess, which in turn makes me even less willing to take on the task of cooking. But when I take a more leisurely mindset it brings me back to a state of being where I can be reflective and contemplative, where the senses overtake the analytical brain and stillness radiates out from the core, a place where memories flow from the fingertips and burble up from the depths of lost recesses of the brain, weave themselves into meals yet uneaten and bring my past to the present and into the future, past lifetimes connecting with the present, ghosts of old acquaintances whispering in my ear of the connections, connections, oh the many beautiful and intricate connections in this world, one of the things I love most about this world.

Those connections. This night. Tonight. Peace.

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