Tuesday, July 31, 2012

To Savor a Moment

BSP3 5

To tell you the truth, I’m sick of food. I've been sick of it. Sick of thinking about it, sick of making it, sick of cleaning up after it. While I would love for someone else to cook all my meals I can’t see past their actions, the team, the hustle, to simply savor things – not as often as I would like anyway. Food can be, in a word, exhausting.

While I was at my food bloggers 'retreat' this weekend, a white shirt clad woman, hair pulled back in a sensible but clean ponytail, holding a plastic bowl filled with salad, said “excuse me”. She brushed by me and, too-humbly, said “thank you,” then went about her work of refilling and refreshing a salad on the buffet. In that tenth of a second, that moment I was her again. I was industrial-kitchen hustling, sore feet, service to the core, seen and not heard, make it pretty, make it perfect, make it full and ample, longing for a moment to run away and cool off in the walk-in again. The food fell away, it was her I noticed from there on out, it was the movement, the work. The work. So, much work.

Food is work. It is exhausting toil, hard lessons learned and time spent doing everything but the eating – for farmers, producers, cooks and clean-up crews. For parents with budgets. For you. But it is is also fun, and quiet – it is community and pride, tradition and solace.

BSP3 1

All the same, here I was in a room full of people passionate about food – cameras at the ready, soaking up the tastes, smells, and community around them. “Are you seeing it,” I thought “Did you see her, the woman with the salad?” Maybe. Probably not. Can we ever really see all that has gone into a single dish? From the soil through to the scent, the migrant hand plucking peaches in scorching sunlight on through to the worker tending the kiln reducing wood into charcoal – all for the simple sweetness of a grilled peach, topped with whipped cream. Milking machines, cows in fields (one would hope), dairy truck drivers, hair nets and FDA testers. Sweating cooks impervious to heat after long years of standing over the fire, flipping peaches.

Jars - Terrain

We all stand over the fire in our own way though. From the exhausted parents scraping together something resembling a balanced meal for their kids at the end of the day, to the girl in the grocery, post-dating a check for a case of dollar-a-box ramen noodles, hoping to make it to months end. We all bear the brunt of the fire – and we all have a flame within us.

Mugs - Terrain

But here’s the thing. There is that moment. The moment when time stops. When the first strawberry of the season erupts with flavor in your mouth. The slow bite of a watermelon, the texture like a million natural pop-rocks screaming “wow!” at your tastebuds. The moment when ganache turns from a topping to a smooth silken layer of chocolate, sliding across your tongue. It all disappears then – yes, every person whose work went into that moment, every calloused hand and scalded arm, it all falls away. That is what I love about great food – it calls you back into the moment no matter how hard we try to fight it, no matter how far away we want to be.

That moment moves within us – it turns into community. “Did you taste the cupcake?” “Who made the chocolate cookie with the caramel inside it?” “What smells so good?” Alone, together – it doesn’t matter. All that exhaustion, colludes in a million magical moments, all across the world, every single day, making meaning, conversations and memories.

BSP3 2

Did I come away from the Big Summer Potluck with a remarkable memory of all the food? Not necessarily (though it was outstanding). I came away with the lessons that my heart needed to hear and the space that the community gathered around a table afforded me. Sometimes what you need isn’t the sustenance but the nourishment of spirit.

Each of us left with our own lessons, our own affirmations. Mine were confirmations and encouragements. I knew I wouldn’t be like everyone else there (for one, I don’t have a blog that is solely food related), and I was ok with that – in the end I took strength from my difference because it reminded me that we are all the same, that we all share common experiences. This is a truth that I hold dear, and yet one I have to be constantly reminded about.

I asked the woman with salad refill if she was hot, if she wouldn’t love a break in the walk-in. She laughed and said she used to hide in the ice cream at another job.

I talked to another woman about how meal planning services work for me, because I don’t have time to do everything all the time. She agreed and shared a funny story about food failures.

I spoke about how holding too tight to our best work hurts our ability to grow beyond it – and it moved someone who needed to hear those words.

I met someone I greatly admired and she told me, bluntly, to move forward – that my voice was valuable, that the person I want to be is someone the world needs.

Laughter, agreement, confirmation, encouragement, community – all because of food. Yes, it is exhausting, but the effort is worth it. The value is greater than the work. The moments matter.

For me, today, I’m choosing to stand in the fire and embrace the warmth. I’m choosing to take a moment and enjoy the way an egg slides from the lip of a pan as an omelet takes form instead of thinking about the dishes. I’m choosing to stand into the space of the person I know I am becoming. No more running away into the walk-in, this fire is mine and I choose to let it light the path or burn the clearings as needed. I'll take the scars and the sparks - the journey is worth the exhaustion, and there will always be a hand to hold if we are willing to reach out.

Thank you to the special souls who fanned the flames this weekend. Your honesty, empathy, and sharing of experience were (are) appreciated.

Note: For you long-time readers, you should know, things will be changing a bit around here and I'll be moving to a new space in the coming months. No big deal - I'll let you know and you can still come here, it will direct you where to go. You'll see, it'll be fun!

And thank you to my mom for running around to all my favorite restaurants and inspirational places in a very short time period. It was fun being us again.

Photos are a combo of the conference and the much lauded and loved Terrain at Styers. I know how the blogosphere loves their Terrain!


kelly said...

I can't tell you how much I appreciated this post. I've been hesitant to read everyone's because I'm still processing the weekend and parsing out how I want to say all that needs saying. But, yours was beautifully written and certainly captured the moment. I was on edge all week for a lot of reasons and when I bit into that piece of watermelon, it was the first time I had forced myself to slow down and take notice of small things I forgot I enjoyed, like watermelon rinds.

I'm glad to have met you and thankful for all of the wit, laughter and insight you brought to the weekend! Remember that fire can consume us in flames, but it can also take grainy bits of sand and melt it into beautiful polished glass :]

Tricia said...

Thanks Kelly! If I brought laughter you brought the hilarious! I know exactly what you mean though - and I am so glad we met!

Tara said...

This writing encompasses so much more than food. Of course you know that. Today I feel it speaks to me as a mother and wife. With a belly heavy with child I yearn to enjoy domesticity the way I did 9 months ago, but cannot fathom the energy to even remotely match my previous self.

I'm reminded that at some point, I will revive a bit and find joy in what I found joy in before. In the meantime I don't have to live disconnected. I can relish in the gifts of others and maybe find new gifts of my own. Hopefully from a seated position. ;o)

Can't wait to see what fun you're having behind the scenes rekindling fires that had cooled. May I second the confirmation that the person you want to be (and the person you already are) is incredibly valuable and magnetic to the world around you?

Your graceful, thoughtful ways and communication have inspired me deeply for a few years now. I hope you already knew that as well. <3

Mallory said...

Since Saturday afternoon, I have been repeating what you said during the impromptu open mike segment. " I spoke about how holding too tight to our best work hurts our ability to grow beyond it ..." I needed to hear those words. It was one of many 'ah-ha' moments of the weekend. It was like someone gave me permission to 'let go' and move forward. So, thank you and your mother.

I am so glad we met this weekend and thank you for being so kind and funny and honest. Looking forward to what you have in store!

Chef Dennis Littley said...

what a pleasure reading your post Tricia, you really got to the soul of the retreat.
As for food service, I think we do what we do because we're good at it, and as much as we complain about the work, we would be lost without it.


Unknown said...

It was so great to meet you at BSP3. I love your sense of humor, and thanks for sharing you thoughts on this weekend.

I love your writing style, and this is a lovely recap. I had a similar experience a few years ago where I felt burnt out and stopped cooking for awhile. Sometimes it's okay to take a break from anything you do or walk away from something or someone if you're not feeling it. I think that's when you know if it's truly for you.

Unknown said...

Beautiful! It was so nice to meet you and I was oh so lucky to get a slice of your deliciously moist and flavorful cake!

k said...

this was such a good story/memoir-ish type writing, i really enjoyed it. and i totally tasted that first strawberry again :)

Unknown said...

Tricia, what a lovely "in the moment" post. I hope that we can all continue to raise consciousness of being in the moment, of greater awareness of where we've been and where we are going.

kellypea said...

I've always wanted to go to this event, but summer seems always to be much more busy than I'd like. I enjoyed your perspective here, and the depth of your thoughts. Food is work, and sometimes I feel alone in that place of knowing. Best to you as you move to the next space...