Saturday, January 28, 2012

Another menu - January 2012

Saturday: Carbonara with shrimp
Sunday: Grill-roasted chicken with grilled peppers and carrots
Monday: Tuscan white bean soup
Tues: Cauliflower "steaks" with roasted pepper, olive and turnip green tapenade
Wed: Pizza with leftover tapenade and fresh mozzarella
Thurs: Surprise! Dinner at Brewery Vivant with Luisa
Friday: Scallops in red Thai curry

Credit where credit's due

Carbonara and white bean soup inspired by Cook's Illustrated recipes. Thanks to Creswick Farms for the chicken. Cauliflower steaks and tapenade a variation on a recipe from the Jan. 2012 issue of Bon Appétit.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Building bridges

In the last week and a half, I have been involved in deep reflection, and hard conversations, about diversity and community. The essay that I write here is one ephemeral moment of thinking and processing what I have learned up until this moment. I'm feeling my way through this, not knowing where I'll come out. As I write it, I am continuing to learn and find my next step forward.

Here's the setup

This all started in a conversation through TEDxGrandRapids, where I volunteer on the core team. We have been aware that we can do more to ensure great minds from every corner of our community--every discipline, every race, every industry, every social scene--are at least aware of the event, so that those who might benefit from it can choose to apply. We are trying to remove at least the barrier of awareness and invitation. So we've been meeting with many people, and entering into hard conversations about diversity.  Some people are really glad we're starting the conversation. Some people think we need to do a lot more before they're willing to trust us. Some people think both things. And I believe they are all right.

Here's where it gets complicated

Diversity and community mean a lot of things, to a lot of different people. Cultural context and personal experience create a layer of meaning, and that meaning may or may not be shared. Sometimes, it's not even clear what that meaning is, because it's a visceral, emotional thing buried deep inside us, and wrapped up in our identity.

I was sharply reminded that our contexts have emerged separately, divided by history and the experiences of our ancestors. I became keenly aware, again, that our personal experiences are informed by day after day of living in this world and interacting with each other. Those interactions are sometimes damaging. And the more we hurt each other, the more we undermine our ability to find common ground and create a better community, better society.

We lose sight of the compassion and good intention that is there. We become fearful. We hesitate to extend ourselves and build bridges, because, frankly, it hurts. It's a lonely and vulnerable place. Building bridges means not belonging to either side. It means residing in the murky, volatile mess of it all, and attempting to navigate by love anyway. It is no easy task.

It is personal

I love people. I love our human potential, and I am patient with our flaws. I place high value on broad perspectives and diverse experiences. Welcoming everyone is really important to me.

I start from trust and love, and a knowledge that I am imperfect, but that I will keep trying, and each time I try, I'll learn something that broadens my view, challenges and improves what I know about the world, and makes me a better person. I can't see any other way of existing in this world.

As I have struggled with defining my experience of the last week, and the reality of the pain that has surfaced through misunderstandings and missed opportunities, I was reminded by my friend Luisa that I am abnormal. I know she's right. My unique experiences span languages, religions, continents, art, science and literature. Poverty and wealth. Rural and urban. I am privileged to have shared in a huge portion of human experiences. I suppose this uniquely equips me to build bridges across many divides. Perhaps this is the gift I am meant to give the world.

My wish

That we can all embrace our abnormality, and love each other for it. I want to sit at a table with people from every corner of experience, and I want to share with them. I want to share responsibility, learning, perception, experience. I want us to find reconciliation, patience and goodwill.  I want a community that is willing to care for each other, hold each other accountable, trust each other, forgive each other. I can't help but believe this is possible.

I guess I have started to codify my work. And now I need to start thinking about how to bring it about.

Thanks for listening. This post isn't a defined body of articulate thought. It's a reflection at this single moment in time, my effort to learn and grow. If you have suggestions about bringing people together, and creating community, I'd love to hear them. I think we'll do this work in an unusual, unexpected way, but I don't know where the path leads, or even really how to recognize it. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

On the menu

For years, I have made my grocery list from a menu. I started this right after I graduated from college, and Kevin and I had to make careful decisions about what we bought at the grocery store, because our limited dollars had to buy enough food to last us until the next trip. I made Kevin choose between wine and steak more than once.

Now that we're in a different financial position, I have kept this tradition of menu planning, because it means that we eat healthy, home-cooked food. It's better for us all around.

Living frugally is still a goal, driven by philosophy more than necessity. Living simply is an intention, a purposeful choice. For my own reflection in a year, and in case anyone else might be inspired to spend more time in the kitchen, I am going to share the weekly menus.

More than meatless Monday

In January, we're extending meatless Monday to several days a week. It's better for us, and better for the planet. Here's to health, and feeling better about bikinis come June!

Week 1 

(finish up the holiday leftovers...)
  • Sunday: garden tomato soup and sandwiches (thanks Kelly!)
  • Monday: Split pea soup with the rest of the holiday ham 
  • Tuesday: Roast chicken with fava bean purée and a salad 
  • Wednesday:  Stir fried vegetable matchsticks with sautéed mushrooms
  • Thursday: Carrot-ginger soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Friday: pizza with the leftover holiday duck, roasted red peppers and kale

Week 2

  • Saturday: Free day (surprise party) 
  • Sunday: Chicken and dumplings 
  • Monday: Skillet-baked eggs with wilted kale and yogurt sauce (inspired by Bon Appetit)
  • Tuesday: Lentil soup 
  • Wednesday: Macaroni and cheese with spinach and roasted peppers 
  • Thursday: Fish en mole 
  • Friday: Pizza 

Credit where credit's due

Props to Creswick Farms, where Nathan raises healthy, happy chickens, and to Behren's Hens at Beechwood Acres, and Rebecca, who drops eggs off at WYCE for Kevin to bring home. Also, thanks to Lisa Rose Starner, who made the salsa mole and traded us for some cider at the GRap Food Swap this fall.

May you all have a chance to enjoy good food, good health and good company.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

I love it that we live in a culture that celebrates the fresh start, a new beginning. I love it that we resolve to be better somehow in the next 12 months than we were before.

I have shared this ritual of annual optimism since childhood, when my mom invited us all to write resolutions for the new year in our notebooks. A whole family, making wishes. Bockie and Grandpa. Grandma Schaus. My little sister. Mom and Dad. The dog and cats. My uncle Tom and aunt Diane, in from Washington State. I don't remember the promises we made ourselves. But I do remember the camaraderie. Giggles induced by late nights, sweets and brandied eggnog. A perfectly fitting end to my tenth year, and to the indulgence of the holiday season.

Now, as I turn 35, I sit at my own kitchen table, the last of the holiday ham simmering into split pea soup on the stove. Sipping cider (a Murphy-Tandem blend of Crabster and Smackintosh, heavier on the crabby tartness) from a glass I bought in Dublin 15 years ago. Outside, the fresh snow is blanketed by the dark, and only occasional lights sweep by from the street.

Like many of the past several years, my hopes for the next are simple. Perhaps hard to attain, but ultimately, quite simple: Health, love, friendship, family, spirit, courage, thought, art. Integrity. Beauty. Compassion.

Four promises

I promise to live slower. Organize around the things that matter. Plant a garden, cook at home. Cultivate friends.

I promise to live healthier. Long walks and meditations. Simple food. Whole food. Laughter and companionship.

I promise to live with purpose. Making time for people. Connecting good work to good ends. Gaining and maintaining perspective. Letting go, and making peace. Living with low impact. Less consumption, more production.

I promise to live with love. To say the unsaid. To share in lives. To consider. To become explicitly thoughtful. To inquire, and listen. To celebrate.

Luke and Murphy get a new year's treat from Kevin.