Author Archives: Ingrid
These jars can be quite annoying! They have to be cleaned. They are heavy and can break. And they have to be stored upside down so nothing can fall into them; then turned over to be filled. And so it goes!
But wait! I love the jars and I love the community dinners for the same reason. Please humor me and follow me on the big arch of comparison.
In all my thinking about food and the role it plays in our lives, I have noticed a tendency that I know well from other areas of life. It’s this inhumane obsession, as I see it, to split things up; and then have the parts take center stage in this divided world.
Food becomes calories, vitamins, minerals, fats. It’s microwavable, single serving packaged, nutritionally labeled, whatever. You want to eat healthy, it has to be easy, fast. Sometimes you go out for a special dinner. You want to be conscious and buy local but the Irish butter and the Swiss cheese are by far the best (that’s me speaking personally here). It is a necessity, a task, maybe an annoyance or an addiction. Cleaning up is a chore as nobody likes doing dishes.
So how does it all fit together?
There is this me, me, me aspect of food. It feeds me. I want it to taste good. It has to be good for my health. But in this “me, me, me” world we miss out. We miss the qualities of love, respect, care, community, sharing, exchange and fairness.
This is where the jars and community dinner come together. The jars remind us that our food is a precious gift to our bodies that we can honor when we treat resources respectfully. Community dinners remind us that we have to eat, regardless of our means. The jars and community dinner both connect us with a bigger world and serve our health by reminding us that we are a part of a whole. They invite us to be mindful and grateful – two qualities that will keep our souls and minds healthy like the food does for our bodies.
One thing I love about seasonal, local veggies is that they make beautiful salt only dishes. No other seasonings are needed!
A great example is the tomato pepper stew, called Letscho. At least that is how the Hungarian name was said in my childhood in Vienna. At the height of the summer, the various peppers and ripe tomatoes are so full of flavors. If you stew them for a while, of course with onions and garlic, these aromas blend together so magically. You really only need a bit of good sea salt and viola, a heavenly dish is made!
Or you can create a veggie stew with a mire poix base (the famous marriage of onions, celery and carrots that is the base of so many soups and stews) that is enriched with parsnip and celery root. Add some broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots and potatoes and a bit of sea salt – mmmm, yummy!
My friends, the veggies!
If you think I am crazy, you may be right. But my state of mind is not the point here. This is an exploration of the vegetable’s character.
As the title indicates, kindness is central to most vegetables’ nature. I am not acquainted enough with all of them to say that they are all kind, but the broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts (yes, I do have a special fondness of the cruciferous vegetables), the cucumbers, lettuces, carrots, zucchini, squash, celery – they all have been exceptionally kind and loving to me. Not to mention the sweet peas.
They all have delighted me with their vibrant colors, subtly pleasing fragrances, fun shapes, delicious tastes and wonderful nutritional value without ever asking anything in return. Not like my cat who screams every morning until she gets her treats and I don’t even plan on eating her!
They have been my company in the kitchen, trustingly laying in my hands while I whip out my sharp knives. Without crying or pleading they surrender to the sizzling olive oil only to end up tasting sweet and – yes, kind.
No harm in their mind, they don’t bite back (except maybe the jalapenos, but we love them for that, don’t we?). They continue to grow. All they want is a little water, a little sun, some nice soil. What modest, fine souls they are.
No revengeful clogging of your arteries, hardly any allergies they give you, rarely indigestion, maybe a little gas, but nothing like their cousins the legumes. Vegetables are gentle.
I can’t help myself but thinking that they like it best when they are eaten together with their friends, the herbs. A little dill with the zucchini, some parsley on the carrots, basil on the tomatoes. I believe vegetables have a keen sense for companionship. They are innately friendly.
I love them.
Daniel (the one who is always around me – he’s not god he’s just my husband) told me that I should write more about my thoughts and beliefs about community food. So – I seem to have a brilliant thought about once every 5 months – so here are my articles from the last few years!
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Growing up I have heard a story from my dad’s childhood many times. He would tell me about how poor they were, and about the lack of food during the war. The weekly meat ration for a family with five kids was 350 grams – less than one pound. On Sundays, when the meat was served, my dad’s father would always pass on the meat saying he was not hungry, so that the kids could have more.
A friend who was an exchange student in China told me a similar story. The family of his Chinese room mate who could hardly afford feeding a guest would take him to an expensive restaurant and treat him like a king.
When I was vacationing in Croatia, we stayed with a family that rented out an apartment. They were not wealthy. But they insisted on treating us to a bountiful dinner they made for my whole family with all the riches of their region – the seafood, the wine, the home made liquor. We had no language in common, but we ate and laughed and talked with hand and feet until late in the night.
In my family it was also customary that when someone came to the house you would offer food and drink and not give in until they accepted something.
It seems to me that we all love contributing to other people’s lives and well being. Feeding someone is such an immediate way to do so. I think we all can relate to that. It’s so quintessentially human.
What if we shared food beyond all social boundaries? What if saw food like air – it’s there for everybody? What if we made sure that everybody eats?
I am often confused.
Should I try to make a difference in the world or is it best to focus on my own inner peace and happiness because then these beautiful qualities will spread and that is the best contribution I can make?
Does it even make sense to figure out how to make a positive impact on the world which in its vastness and complexity is much more than I can ever understand?
How come that I was born in a place and time that allows me my daily hot shower, plenty of food, conveniences like effortless transportation, a washer and dryer, total access to information etc – while millions of people starve? What is the meaning of this condition?
You may have found answers to the ultimate questions of life, maybe in your religion, maybe in a daily practice of meditation, maybe you are too busy to consider them.
I find comfort with my friends the vegetables, the nuts, the beans and the millet.
There is such a indisputable goodness to them. Such gentle surrender, such beauty and total giving, such awesome simplicity.
It’s not just that I can be with them, they actually allow me to participate in the flow of life more fully, by enjoying their beauty, sharing their bounty and spreading their wisdom. They truly comfort me.