In these last weeks, I have been to the library quite a bit. I have found new mystery authors to enjoy, yes, but the real thrill has been 641.5. Not six-hundred forty one and a half, 641.5. Cookery. I have been devouring cookbooks and food writing books. And not only reading, but putting into practice! I have made lime-chili-sesame green beans that sagged my socks, a blueberry cake, the left-overs of which made 5:30 in the morning a truly dreamy moment, and roasted tomato-garlic pasta with balsamic parmesean zucchini that did little somersaults of joy all the way down.
In thinking about this spate of spatula toting, I was drawn back to earlier journal entries.
From my journal entry of 28 March, 2010, written after a much needed massage soon after returning from Chile…
I get a good vibe from S…it is that feeling that allows the trust to have her care for me in that way. It is not there for me with everyone…I am grateful when I do feel it. It is the sense that with her you can let go and she will help you and keep you safe all at the same time. For that hour, someone you trust is helping you on the journey…and it is okay to rest and allow it.
And a quotation I found yesterday, 13 July, 2010, while paging through The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters….
It is the many dimensions of sensual experience that make cooking so satisfying.
These two ideas are intimately related, I think. And the link has something to do with the absolute need for the beauty of the senses in my life. I feel the lack of it when it isn’t there. I remember thinking just before the massage—Ahh, touch! Thank you, God, for that. For the touch of someone I trust…for being able to feel the relaxation moving within me, the gratitude, the warmth, the sense of being home in those moments, of being with God.
In the kitchen, it is the textures, the colors, tastes, feels, smells, that do it. The sensory input, the providing for others, the delight and marvel of the science of it…how an understanding of the chemistry leads me to new understandings of the depths of relationship—relationships of harmony, that lead to beauty or a fullness of taste that could not otherwise be achieved.
The idea that certain spices draw out the best in certain foods is not unlike the idea that certain people draw out the best in certain others. Friends! We know our best ones because they accept and allow our humanity while calling us to be our best selves, to live more intimately our important, though fractional piece of the image and likeness of God. And, in my experience, they do this by the questions asked, by support given, by being still enough often enough to allow the other to do likewise and together create peace.
And I imagine that this sort of peace, rightness of relationship, is something like the meal created in Babette’s Feast—balanced, flavorful, full of joy and surprise and both personal and communal exposition and delight—if we allow ourselves to participate in it, to be touched by it, to be made vulnerable by it.
And how often, in the midst of such a meal or such relationship, silence comes welcoming with the coffee or quiet smile–silence not for any sort of lack, but for the sake of savoring the fullness.
Amen, I say.
And then comes the joy of bringing some small part of that experience and knowledge to others…not by dint of force or subjection, but rather by allowing it within myself. Allowing it to shape me, touch me, yes, change me. And that is what I walk with and the well from which I share… and cook.