patty pans and puppy bellies

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These days, my life is about submitting,
and surviving,
and pushing through barriers I keep around my heart.

I dislike that I am so very stubborn at times.
I also have a thing with male authoritarian figures.

Maybe that’s why I work better under women chefs than men.
But let me digress, as I do.

Because my heart is feeling a little wild and raw today.

I am all over the place in my head, trying to figure out what is good and real, and what’s fleeting and exhausting. Wouldn’t we all love to know what is good for us now and also 20 years from now? Yeah. Same. I’m working it out, apparently.

As I digest this life, it is often sour and turns in my belly.
Then there are moments like yesterday, where I felt like a kid, wandering through rows of vegetables and scratching the bellies of tiny puppies with a cup of sweet tea at hand.

There was the sweat dripping off my face and onto my glasses. The bugs buzzing in my ears and the new community forming around my heart. I was a little overwhelmed, as I get from time to time in these sacred places.

Rows of tomatoes, branches hanging deep with em’ and some that were showing off a little earlier than their green branch mates.

Squash blossoms and pattypans.
Sweet onions and crunchy okra.

My heart swelled.
My new friend Dale said, “The way Josh sounds when he talks about cooking, is the same way I talk about eating..which means he really loves to do it…”

I stick my head down, because when people say things like that, it puts me on the spot and I smile and shake my head approvingly.
But I will never apologize for being shy, or quiet. I like being a gentle presence.

Yes, fortune favors the bold, but also the meek will inherit the Earth.

so they say.

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I am flustered.

From work being busy, and me being in the awkward position of not knowing where things are, but working damn hard at trying to be good at what I do. And that my apartment is missing something, and I can’t figure out what it is. I think maybe people. Maybe some more color. A different smell.

I am going in a million different directions, sometimes.

But yesterday, I walked down the rows of vegetables, smelling heads of broccoli and bending deep down for the perfect blossom. Flies and bees and white moths circling the heat and stench of a proper garden. Goats, horses, chickens, and cute baby things.

I scratched the belly of the puppy that was playing with my shoestrings, as I found it trying to dig through my groceries that were just pulled up from the ground.

I was also overwhelmed with everyone’s kindness and generosity and humor.
I am still so thankful when I get to receive in abundance.
Even when it’s just a brown bag full of squash, it is a little bit of heaven on Earth.

You see?

Every day, I glide through people like them rows of vegetables, not knowing of the battles they carry in their own hearts.
Should we have kids?
What’s wrong with me?
I am so tired of feeling lost.

I battle my own.

Why is it so hard to accept love back?
I don’t even know how I deserve this…
I hope I’m doing a good job.

I let them flow through me,
and I breathe in deeply.

Yes, I deserve the love that I give.

And I will remember to keep my plow to the Earth.
Breaking through the surface, to plant and nurture and grow.

And harvest,

reaping what I have sown,

giving thanks to the Great Mother who still holds me close,

and the Great Mystery that dwells inside of my heart.

 

 

meat (and moon)

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Sometimes, I’m afraid to look at this blog.

Really, there are a lot of things I’d like to say at this point in life. A lot of things involving choice words I know my momma would prefer me leaving out and ideas that are just a little over the top.

And there will be a time for that.

I’ve been writing (read:blogging) like this since high school. Granted, it was more about girls and God and whining about things I can’t even remember now. But I suppose that’s how life goes. Things get big, then they get smaller. Sometimes they even disappear. I suppose if we were to hold on to everything, it would be an awfully big world to carry.

But today, I’m feeling tired. Mostly in my back. A few burnt and chapped fingers. It comes with the gig.

I spent most of this past Sunday out at a berry farm assisting some of Portland’s finest cooks prepare a big family style meal for 115 patrons. My friend Erika created Plate & Pitchfork — which provides growers, farmers, vintners, brewers and chefs a day to collaborate on meals, while also raising awareness for local food movements and various organizations. It is a good thing. To be aware of one’s food and where it comes from. (I suggest if you make it to Oregon for a summer, consider one of her dinners. They are always so beautiful and her and her team are some hard working bad-asses.)

I worked with Erika as a server a couple of years back just as my foodie interests were peaking and had always loved being near the cooks. Only this time, I was on the other side. Standing among grills burning hot mesquite, breaking down huge cuts of meat and plating pretty desserts. There was a certain point where I took it all in, feeling deeply my desire to be among these kind of people. Crude humor aside, they are my family.

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The owner/farmer of Smith Berry barn went out and caught me some crawfish in his little irrigation creek. There were only about 12 — not nearly enough for anyone to be satisfied, but I certainly cooked them to the best of my ability while serving him mid course on a shiny white plate with four crawfish, tails tucked tightly, shining bright red. Beauty of a thing. He was so excited, mostly because he had never eaten them. It was a pleasure to give him a taste. And properly done, at that.

It was a warm sun. I watched as moms and dads taught their little ones to pick berries, “If they’re pink, they’re not ready okay?” As they look toward their bleach blonde babies with berry juice dripping down their chins.

“Eat them things up.” I say to myself.

A big moon came out and took the edge off the heat.

I took a short walk in between the lanes of blueberries and blackberries, letting the moon cool my sunburn.

Feeling it in my knees, I became aware of this journey.

I knew it deep down that I can’t be quiet about the things inside of me. A cage is no place for a voice to be heard. We all have important things to say.

I am glad, deep down, I can say them here.

And I’m thankful, at the end of the day,

that I have some people out there who listen.

Saturday Farmer’s Market (A Lesson in Onion Accountability)

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The other day my boss put some money in my hand and asked me to go to the farmer’s market to grab a few things for the shop and to talk to vendors. Basically, to get used to the idea that if one wants to work with local farms and producers, you have to actually talk to them.

I was excited and nervous. I don’t know why.

I love farmer’s markets. You’re hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t. I mean, why would you wanna find that kind of person anyways?

An hour before my shift this past Saturday, I was out to buy some strawberries. Some delicious Oregon strawberries, at that. I really don’t know why Oregon grows such good berries. But these things are the best. Okay, you probably grow some pretty good ones too. Fair enough. We’re all biased and fierce about our own produce.

On Saturdays, there is a great giant market on the campus courtyards of Portland State University. Basically if you’re a local farm or purveyor, it’s where all the cool kids hang out.

People are out selling their usual swag: cheese, meats, produce, flowers, and the occasional hand pie makes its way into my belly. Giant morels. Beautiful gnarled carrots. Strawberries macerating in their own boxes from the sun. It’s a little heaven. Or at least something kind of sacred.

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You get a feeling that this is how things should be.

Getting to know the people that grow your food is personal. Deeply.

Which is why I was nervous. You are now responsible for making this taste good. Someone arched their back and got dirty. They sweated and washed the dirt away. They brought it all to you.

Yes. I’d say it’s deeply personal.

We are disconnected at grocery stores. We are not held accountable for what we put into plastic bags. But when something comes from so close, you should know how to treat it and how it will best nourish the bones of you and yours.

As the bell rang to signify the opening of the market, people rushed in, shoving heads of lettuce into their cute bags and made their rounds ’till full and satisfied.

I was a little overwhelmed. My only job was to get strawberries and lettuce. Which I managed, but they were all too busy to chat. And while I’m being honest with myself, I’d rather frequent a place a few times before poking my head in. I’m still learning how to do all this.

I also managed to grab a few gigantic Walla Walla sweet onions for a future tart of sorts and some spicy radish sprouts.

I was able to talk to the sprouts couple. They were cute and had a baby with them who let us all know she was there. I was giddy to make my first sort-of relationship. At least a card with an e-mail. That’ll work for me.

As I rushed back to my car to make it in time for the busy Saturday shift, a woman yelled, “You ’bout to lose dem’ onions!” as I saw the greens of my Walla Wallas nudging out of my brown bag like some sort of thief. I laughed and yelled, “Thanks!”

The way food makes its way into our mouths is a journey more important than any other. At least, unless you’re a hobbit destroying a ring or finding the bigger meaning in your world — these things matter, absolutely.

There is a quote somewhere about the food we eat and how it nourishes not only our bodies, but the bodies of our kids and their kids.

So this food thing is kind of eternal.

I guess that’s how it all goes — when that circle completes itself.

When you tuck those onions back in and move forward, you know they were meant for something bigger.