Sunday, September 29, 2013

Putting it on the Table

When I was twenty-something, I lived in several different households in San Francisco with other young people. None of us had children. The households that are most vivid in my memory are the ones in which we shared meals, typically dinner and occasionally leisurely breakfasts on the weekends.

 In one household we shared shopping, cooking and cleaning responsibilities for the dinner meal among four or five of us. The housemates came and went but the rhythm of meal time and shopping remained pretty much the same.

Then I moved in with two guys and brought the shared meal time routine to that household. Well one housemate fled to England with his soon to be wife and the other endured. We formed a strong friendship and shared meals and conversation over a few years.

In another household we were vegetarian, or at least we all agreed to eat vegetarian at home. Each member of the household favored certain foods, one almost always cooked burdock root in some form  or another and added fresh basil to everything. Another could be relied upon for Indian food with basmati rice. We shopped at Rainbow Grocery and who ever took up the task to walk (or bike) to the store to do the shopping got to buy a shopper's treat and include its cost in the cost of groceries which we shared. One of my favorite shopper's treat was an oat cake, a dense chalky round oat delicacy with dried apricots, which I am still striving to replicate after all these years. Dense. Round. Chalky. Fruity.

Meals tended to be pretty simple and straightforward and everyone pitched in, in one way or another, with shopping, cooking, washing dishes and sweeping the floor. 

When my first child was born, I was living in our little nuclear family in Maine and I used to scramble to get dinner on the table on time for all of us to sit down and have a pleasant meal with conversation, before someone was too tired. I was on call for labor and birth at the time too. I guess I didn't know then how ambitious I was. You know what is said about hindsight...

I remember dinner taking what felt like all day to prepare, and struggling for hours with something as simple as burritos. The soaking of beans, cooking of beans and rice, grating cheese, slicing avocados. could take all day. My son spent a good deal of time on my back and often fed butter to the dog by the stick. Not long after, he began passing the dog wooden spoons to eat as well as the butter sticks. Butter and wooden spoons disappeared like never before!

I also recall the quick and easy moments, there were a few...coming home to toss together fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden with garlic and onions and tossing it over pasta, ready to go. Chicken pot pie bubbling from the oven or a steak on the grill with potatoes baked in cream and emmentaler cheese with bits of garlic tucked in.

We moved to the islands when this first born and then only child of ours was one year old. On one island we lived on, our house was on a "mountain" in the center of the island and looked out over the sea. The moon rose right out my back kitchen door and the sun set right in front of my kitchen window. Hibiscus bushes and coconut trees were dotted around the yard. It was quite a view.

Whenever I'd begin to feel overwhelmed with the dinner process, with bickering or frustration, I'd step out the door and look at this view. At dinner time the sun was headed down and it was not unusual to see a green flash as the sun was going over the horizon.
Well, who could be frustrated for long when the challenges of getting dinner on the table were put in perspective?

Behind the house, I tended a kitchen garden that grew what were to become the staple ingredients during our time in the islands: lemongrass, basil, wild chili peppers and kabocha squash. The trees provided calamansi, mango, papaya and coconuts.

In October's Odyssey of Warmth, I'll include some of the curry recipes I learned to make in the islands, one from our housekeeper and one from a Thai gal who decided to share her recipes with the community when she left the island. These have endured and remained favorites through the years among our family and friends and at potlucks.

On the fridge, held by a magnet was the wheel of the year I had sketched out for myself. You can see it here. It has a focus on the energy, both inner and outer, at each turn of the year. It dawned on me that I could sketch out a meal plan too. It came of out habit and necessity. Those beans and rice Monday Mexican evenings became so easy to organize, especially if I soaked the beans and rice on Sunday and knew when I went shopping that every Monday, dinner would include beans and rice and whatever vegetables were in season.   

When we returned to New England after living in the South Pacific, Monday became the day we ate tropical foods, avocado, mango, papaya and pineapple. My friend Danielle inspired me to try 

Sunday's roast could turn into Monday's bone broth that would be available for snacks and sipping and form the base for Soup day.

And so, you see, it just rolled along.

When I started The Children's Garden, the food themes rolled over into lunch for the children, beans and rice on Monday with avocado and tropical fruit. Soup on Tuesday. It made it easy for our home rhythm and the Morning Garden rhythm to overlap. I knew what to buy when shopping without a list. I was free to add seasonal and local foods when they were ripe and in season. It helped me become more sensitive to the earth's rhythms as well, with blossom time for the apple trees and months later, the harvest with fresh hard MacIntosh apples to eat and press, bake into pies and cook into applesauce. Summer brought fresh cucumbers from the garden and the herbs from three seasons we use in making our tea as well as spicing food.

Creating a meal plan rhythm also awoke in me a deep gratitude for the bounty of the earth and the renewal and transformation that comes in revisiting a season each year, each return brings new eyes.

I notice this too with mothering, with noticing the same child, yet a year later, a year older with the return of the birthday. I too have changed in that year.

Like any other aspect of rhythm, it needs tweaking on a regular basis. Sometimes it needs a big change, sometimes it needs an addition and at other times it needs a total re-haul. When I pay attention to our enthusiasm for meals and the changing availability of local foods, it tends to work really well.

As the wheel turns and leaves the warmth of summer behind, we now find warmth within. This month in the Celebrate the Rhythm of Life Program we'll explore warm meals, warm gestures and how we can kindle the warmth within as we move toward colder days and longer nights.

The turning of the wheel of the year is an inspiration to shift our meal planning toward local warming foods. Broths and stocks take on new meaning. Soups and stews edge out cold and raw salads. Curries and spices warm both tummy and heart as well the home.

In October we'll embark on an Odyssey of Warmth and take up Warmth of Head, Heart and Hands with four weeks of cooking lessons on both and stocks, soups and stews, curries and spices to warm the   body, heart and soul. Lynn Jericho will be a Guest Speaker and we'll have a Round Table Conversation on bringing warmth to the home.

Registration is now open and the class officially begins October 7th. In the meantime, we'll have Introductions and get to know our way around the materials and blog.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful, thoughtful post that gives me greater appreciation of rhythm. I envy that you have lived so many beautiful, and different places!


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