I haven”t been here in a while. I think my pot boiled over, cooked dry, and got scorched. I have been trying to figure out a way to clean my pot so that I can use it again, but nothing seemed to be working until recently. Over the past few weeks, when I wasn’t even looking, I may have stumbled upon a solution. Isn’t that often how it works? The solution came into focus as I thought about a story I heard this weekend, a true story, about a man who for years had ground wheat into flour so that his wife could bake bread. His wife has passed away, but the man continues to grind wheat in to flour. Now his daughter drives almost 200 miles round trip to collect the wheat her father has ground and to give him 4 loaves of bread made from the wheat she collected the previous month. This story almost moved me to tears. This man’s love for his departed wife, the daughter’s love for her father and mother, and her willingness to keep this tradition they established alive is beautiful and what is needed in our world.
I heard the story in my kitchen, as I was spending the afternoon cooking. I was cooking for not only my family, but for a couple neighbors who for health reasons need some help with meals. I cooked all afternoon and was exhausted when I was done, but my heart was also very full. I love to cook for others, always have. My husband and I recently had our annual Mardi Gras party. Every year in the middle of the party I think to myself, this is the last year. I do not do well in large gatherings, preferring instead smaller functions. But each year as the time to start planning for the Mardi Gras party rolls around, I find myself excitedly looking forward to the party. Sure I like to see the people attending the party, but what I am really excited about is the cooking I will do for the party and the pleasure I experience as our guests enjoy the food.
I find cooking restorative and I am not the only one. My friend, Sharon, and I share a love of cooking, and recently she sent me a cookbook for my birthday. In the letter, which accompanied the cookbook she told me to read the book from cover to cover. While I have often looked at each page of a cookbook, I have never read a cookbook from cover to cover, but I trust her advice, so I started reading. A few pages into the book the author talks about how she had fallen out of love with life, seeing only darkness on the horizon, resulting in her trying to take her own life by stepping into the path of an oncoming bus. As she was talking to the psychiatrist shortly after the incident, all she can think about is baking a pie. Once she returned home, she baked that pie, and even though she had never been much of a cook, she decided to continue cooking. She says that cooking changed her life (I imagine she also got some psychiatric help too!).
I’m not certain why my friend told me to read this book from cover to cover, but I am grateful. While I have not been suicidal, I have had a difficult time keeping my spirits up these past few years. That is part of the reason I have stopped writing. The subject of food insecurity was so depressing; it still is. It actually may be even more so because I don’t see the problem getting better any time soon. In fact, I think there is a strong possibility that it will get worse and sooner rather than later. My heart was heavy and the act of writing this blog seemed futile, but these events of the past couple of weeks have cleared away some of the gloom. They have also reminded me of this quote I so love, “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”. *
I have realized that cooking is my path forward. I can not solve the problem of food insecurity, but I can cook for others and in doing so keep up my own spirits. I love the act of cooking, all of it. The finding of the recipe, the shopping, the chopping, the combining. Notice I didn’t say the doing of the dishes! But more importantly than it just being an enjoyable pasttime, it feeds my soul by allowing me to help and bring pleasure to others. Cooking is now and has always been my expression of love, for my family, friends, neighbors and even strangers. It’s what helps me celebrate the good times and gets me through the bad. And on that note I am going to close so that I can put the finishing touches on a meal I am delivering to one of my neighbors and start dinner for my own family. Bon Appetit!
*I have always attributed this quote to the Talmud, but in searching for the quote I could not find it’s definitive source.