Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Beyond the Harvest

Sunday night, my mind was stuck on food. I was not hungry; supper was filling. But I thought of food all the same. I pulled a cookbook onto my lap and riffled through the pages.

I spent August, well into September in fact, canning and freezing food from our garden. I plugged the basement freezer back in (it was on summer break) and filled it with the sweet corn from Mrs. Hough, the beans from mom and dad, the apples from everywhere. Jars of green pepper relish and salsa filled the cabinet shelves. I pulled the onions: white, pearly globes; they are drying spread out on paper on the basement floor. Earlier in the summer, Kris had brought over bunches of garlic, now dried and stored in a mesh sack.

Food is plentiful and want is far from our door. All the same, my mind was stuck on food.

Sunday’s supper was excellent. We had bean soup that was a combination of the black bean soup from earlier in the week and some pinto bean soup from the freezer. I tossed in slivers of a red banana pepper I had just picked and one of our own onions, along with some of Kris’s garlic. There was a pan of fresh cornbread. As Warren and I ate, we marveled over the thick, savory concoction, spooning it up carefully to get every last bite. The smell of it hung into the air late into the evening.

I was not hungry Sunday night. All the same, I kept thinking of food. I kept looking at recipes.

Our garden has almost wound down for the year. There are still peppers. A few tomatoes still hang on the raggedy vines. They are all the more precious for being the last tomatoes. I will not taste their likes again until next July.

Our garden has been bountiful this season. But all the same, my mind was not quite at rest.

Sam recently emailed me from far away Oregon to ask me to send him certain recipes. He is working at a local farm market; his diet is changing. He wants to work on his baking, something we experimented with this summer. He is eager to see where his food interests take him. I miss Sam. I want him at our table. I want Ben and Alise there too. I am grateful for being able to eat with David and Elizabeth, not to mention Amy, but those opportunities are infrequent.  I miss sitting at the table with all my children, all our children, down one side and up the other.

Earlier in the day Sunday, I talked by phone with a longtime friend who is struggling with depression. Sometimes I am frustrated with my words as I offer them up, well aware of their inadequacy in touching the very real pain my friend is experiencing. It is like ladling air into a soup bowl. I would rather bring my friend to our table and pass to him our food – the thick soup, the humble cornbread – as we all eat together. I would like to serve my friend a slice of homemade apple pie and tell him to savor it slowly. There is community in coming together to eat; there is healing in sharing a meal. I believe that a week of sharing food at our table would feed my friend both body and soul.

I was not hungry in body Sunday night, but I was hungry in spirit. I was feeling the empty seats at the table, the emptiness my friend is trying to fill. I wanted to feed that emptiness: for family, for my friend struggling with depression, for myself.

It has taken me a few days to think through my food thoughts, days in which I have been sometimes hungry for something that is not food. I am rereading (for the 5th? - the 6th? - time) The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God by Leslie Leyland Fields and find myself moved, not for the first time, by the lines within. Sometimes I think I am being called - quietly, deliberately - to something involving food.

I don't know what that means or may mean. I only know that I am listening.


Jenny Woolf said...

That's an interesting post. I hope that you find the direction you should take. I heard that in Britain there are ever more takers for free food. There's a charity which redistributes food on its sell-by date which would otherwise go to waste.

Hard to believe that in a civilised country there could really be people who don't have enough to eat. Usually the opposite is the case and the poor are fat because they can't afford healthy food, only cheap fast food.

Sharon said...

I, for one, would love to sit at your table. Your meals are simple, yet sound so delicious! And the wonderful conversation we could have...it definitely would feed my soul.

You post painfully reminded me how we never got our garden going. We laid the foundation, but never purchased the dirt or planted. That makes me sad, however, I'm not sure I would have been well enough to tend to the garden. This has been a tough year for me healthwise. Hopefully, next year will be better.

Let us know what you come up with, foodwise, and I will personally volunteer to try your findings! :)!

see you there! said...

I hope you get the answer you are listening for.

Your post also made ponder the fact that that we often turn to eating when something is "eating at us". Not my original idea but one that fascinates me. Just think where the term "comfort food" comes from.


Deidra said...

That book by Leslie is a beautiful read. It definitely reaches deep and calls something from the reader. You'll figure it out. And we'll be here, waiting to read all about it...