Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cooking to Save the Planet: Celebrating the Small Sacraments

In the midst of the ongoing (and often enervating) struggle for truth, justice, and love it's important, I tell myself to celebrate the small sacraments of everyday life. These are those mundane, often overlooked, occasions of grace that weave through our daily existence, and beg for our attention. And for room in our minds and hearts. And for celebration.

For me, cooking often provokes such reminders of my need to celebrate divine presence in my life. Cooking is sacramental. A bunch of dandelion greens, a handful of mushrooms: in these, I can experience communion in a very direct way, with the earth, and with its maker.

I'm gathering these thoughts after having put together a simple meal today, featuring fresh local ingredients grown organically on nearby farms. This weekend, we bought at our local co-op a beautiful bunch of dandelion greens and some shiitake mushrooms.

For me, the greens are the essence of springtime, even as winter continues its hold on our area. They're a reminder of the renewal of green growth soon to be evident all over our land. I've made them the star of a simple minestrone tonight--nothing special, a hearty soup of simple, earthy vegetables, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, carrots, potatoes, garlic, and chickpeas, with a loving dollop of olive oil to anoint them and a topping of the shredded greens.

Their slight bitterness of the dandelion is a nice complement to the earthy flavors of the soup. And it is the very distillation of life, of new spring growth, an ingredient that links this particular minestrone to the earth and its seasons, to the earth around me and the season through which my neighbors and I are now living.

In the greens, I celebrate the promise of new life, as spring nears. In eating the soup this evening, we commune in a very direct way with the earth and its creator.

And the mushrooms, too: I have sliced and simply fried them in a mix of olive oil and butter, then tossed them with farfalle pasta, parmesan cheese, and a good bit of fresh-ground black pepper.

A simple meal, one with distinct peasant roots. And one that puts us in touch with who we are as creatures of the earth, shaped from its substance, and why we are here on the earth--and of the One who calls us to be here and who sustains us with the gifts of the same earth from which we have been shaped.