Feeding Each Other

To channel some combination of Julia Childs and Emily Post: there may be no better way to celebrate resurrection morn than by dining on that most splendid of nature’s creations, the egg, in all its wondrous varieties—quiched, deviled, etc.—while enjoying the companionship of good friends. Which is what happened at my house on Easter.

What made this brunch so delightful is that my friends—and mom—are awesome. First of all, they cook well and they enjoy eating good food. Yes, that really comes first. Second of all, they laugh a lot and don’t mind being silly. Though no small children attended, the tallest, least furry bunny I’ve ever met brought a basket full of eggs and put together an Easter egg hunt for the rest of us.

Third of all, they are smart and welcoming and loving. This particular group had never gathered before, and only a few people knew each other. I suspect that anyone who heard the laughter or observed the general good cheer would have concluded that these people had known each other for a long time. One friend was talking about a benefit bike ride that he was preparing for, and everyone immediately volunteered to contribute even though they’d only met him a couple of hours before.

As one story tells it, heaven and hell at first appear exactly the same: rows of long tables laden with food and lined with people sitting at the feast. The people hold long-handled spoons. The handles are so long you can’t get the spoon to your mouth. In hell, everyone is miserable because they can’t eat. In heaven, everyone is feeding each other.

I think that’s what happened this Easter—we fed each other good food, good conversation and good humor and were willing to be fed by others. Resurrection might be as simple as that.

Here’s a poem by William Stafford about our daily chance for resurrection. I’ve posted it before, but it’s the perfect size for Poem in Your Pocket Day on Thursday, April 24. Stick this in your pocket and hand it out or read it to people. Guerilla poetry!

By William Stafford

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out—no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

In Praise of Leftovers

Last week I enjoyed a large bounty of one of those simple wonders of modern living: leftovers. They are often unappreciated and sometimes even maligned, but I think whoever invented leftovers was brilliant.

Maybe leftovers got a bad rap back in the day when humans were killing wooly mammoths and the tribe ate the same meal for months at a time. That whole lack of refrigeration problem meant that each day the remaining mammoth meat tasted a little worse or else you had to go through the effort of drying and salting and, let’s be honest, it was a bit tough after that.

But now, leftovers are brilliant. Here are just a few good things about them.

Thing #1: You don’t have to cook. Or dry and salt. I like to cook, but I also like not cooking every day. It’s a treat to have a little extra time to accomplish something worthwhile, like checking Facebook.

Thing #2: You don’t have to figure out what to cook.

Thing #3: Leftovers are kind of like loaves and fishes. If you put some into a separate Tupperware, you suddenly have a whole other meal called lunch.

Thing #4: They taste good—usually.

Thing #5: They are free. OK, not really, but they are already paid for as opposed to almost any other option available on nights when you don’t want to cook.

Thing #6: You don’t have to cook. Did I mention this already?

Thing #7: You can freeze them and then you don’t have to cook some other day. You can even freeze them in individual containers and eat them now and again rather than five days in a row. Or so I hear. I have never been organized enough to take advantage of this particular benefit.

Reading this list might lead you to believe that the essence of what makes leftovers fabulous is that you can be lazy. That might be true. Let’s make it Thing #8.

Dig In

This may change in a few months, but right now, summer is my favorite season. It has earned this accolade by mastering the most important criteria of all: food.

produce at a farmer's marketThe August issue of Bon Appetit arrived sporting a picture of an heirloom tomato sandwich so drool-inducing that any sane person must have been tempted to eat the cover. When I made their tomato, raw corn, avocado salsa (with lime juice and, if you insist on ruining it, cilantro and serrano chilies), it looked just like the picture. I do not make food that looks like pictures. Martha Stewart crosses the street when she sees me coming. The food this time of year is just that beautiful.

In summer you can make things like buckwheat pancakes with fresh peaches and cardamom cream syrup, if you have cream, which I didn’t, so I can’t report on them. But just saying fresh peaches, cardamom, and cream in the same sentence lifts my heart (recipe from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark).

This evening I was slicing some squash for future use (don’t worry, I won’t let this one, ecstatic moment of advance preparation go to my head). The deep yellow of the squash was such a clear, visual sign of overflowing goodness that I had to eat one of the raw spears even though I was in the middle of my third chocolate chip cookie.

Last weekend I spent way too much money at the farmer’s market; way too much is the amount that buys more food than I can eat before it goes bad. But how do you choose among raspberries, peaches, Santa Rosa plums, Early Girl tomatoes, and fresh corn? That’s right, you don’t. Yum!

Plus I have these amazing friends who, unlike me, grow things. The sunshine-in-flesh-form squash mentioned above came from a coworker’s mini-farm. Another friend grows scarlet runner beans, which are green on the outside, pink on the inside, and more delicious than any other green bean ever. Yes, ever.

To top it off, while entertaining your tastebuds, you can also sit outside and be warm (except maybe in certain parts of northern California). So rejoice! Summer is celebrating and we’re invited.

Did Someone Say Food?

If I go past entry number three without talking about food, those who know me will begin to question the honesty of this blog. I love to eat, especially other people’s food.

In his book Brain Droppings, George Carlin suggests world peace through formal introductions. I believe potlucks could accomplish the same end. Eating together is an intrinsic human behavior, like language, perhaps because of the bonds it forms. We may say all sorts of critical things about someone, but if he or she brings a fabulous spinach artichoke dip to the party, a lot can be forgiven.

I once took a long, overnight, third class train ride in China. The very accurate Chinese term for third class is “hard seat,” but they sell far more tickets than there are seats, or did in 1997, and I was sitting on the floor with a crowd of fairly cheerful Chinese people, far more cheerful than I. I spoke Chinese well enough to get around but far short of fluency and often understood my fellow passengers’ questions but didn’t have the vocabulary to answer them.

At one point during the night, the two people nearest me, better prepared than I, broke out their food and offered me some. I declined. It’s good form in China to politely refuse a couple of times and then accept, but I continued to say no. They hadn’t planned on feeding me, and I didn’t want them to spend the night hungry.

Then they asked me a question I couldn’t have answered even if I had known the words. It went something like this: What’s wrong with you Americans? You think you always have to look out for yourselves, but here we look out for each other. Needless to say, I accepted the orange soda and the sausage stick and redoubled my Chinese efforts. (A sausage stick does not belong to the sausage family. It resembles a cold hot dog wrapped in red plastic the way some cheeses are wrapped in red wax. It has the shelf life of a twinkie and tastes as delicious as it sounds.)

Closer to home, one friend in my office recently made my day when she brought me a breakfast burrito for no other reason than that she had made one for herself. Another brought me peas from her garden because she knows they’re my favorite.

Their thoughtfulness reminded me to follow suit, and I delivered banana bread to another office during a stressful time. I’m as capable of believing I don’t have enough as the next person, and sharing what I do have cures this feeling faster than anything else I know of.

We are a species capable of incredible generosity and incredible selfishness, and both are contagious. Offering and receiving food opens that generosity within us. So let’s eat!