Friday, June 12, 2009

Spirit People Salad

When I unsealed the tightly zipped baggie of freshly grown Swiss chard this morning for today's salad adventure, I was overwhelmed by a powerful presence. Standing there, in my ugliest set of comfortable pajamas, knife in hand, brain still fuzzy with sleep, I suddenly felt surrounded by life. I lifted a leaf of the baby Swiss chard from the bag. It had a weight too heavy for it's size, as if it had been recently loaded with fresh rain. The flavor was a milder, sweeter rendition of a chard I often experienced out of our crop share box in college. I am usually inclined to steam chard, as it borders on being too fibrous for me to eat raw, but this particular baby chard is perfect in texture and has the mouth feel of baby spinach. I am also normally inclined to season chard with a lot of vinegar, as it can carry a bitter bite when left around for too long (I am often guilty of buying chard and then, getting distracted by other groceries, and not getting to it for days). The flavor of this baby chard, was wonderful.
As I stood there before my cutting board, inhaling the freshness of the leaf in my mouth, I felt that strange feeling one gets when walking through a very old forest. Like many eyes (other than our three cats) were watching me, lovingly, encouragingly, like there were hundreds of thousands of them. So many that, frantically scanning, it would be impossible to find just one. It would be impossible to locate the source of the presence. It is like the silent noise of two people signing animatedly in a room. You don't even have to be looking to feel the whole place fill with their inaudible chatter. Producing no noise, there gestures are louder than anything else in the room, so loud you can barely hear yourself think!

Moments like this, when I let myself be lifted, when I let myself be carried by a silent and living force into a state of complete attention to the present, are awesome.

When I took the job teaching cooking classes on the farm out in Hugo, I was also allowed to use a plot of their garden in which to grow beans for the cooking classes, and also for my masters degree research. The farm belonged to a Native American summer camp, the campers were to be the students of my cooking class. The farm had hired a professional farmer, whom I had assumed would be taking on the responsibility of the entire garden and everything in it (including the bean plots). One day, while I was working at my part time job (at a co-op), bent over emptying boxes of products, I heard a gentle elderly voice with an unmistakable Massachusetts accent say my name. "Hello Emily" I looked up into sunken, deep brown eyes behind circular glasses framed by long gray straggly hair. It was Sally, the director of the farm. "Sally, what are you doing here?" I said. "I just wanted to give you this gift of maple syrup" she said "we are so excited to have you working with us. Now, you WILL be planting the beans yourself right" "ppplanting the bbbeans?" I said "I don't really do that Sally. I have no idea how to garden" She looked at me soberly "Listen to me" she said, and I am haunted by these words "it is VERY important that you have a relationship with these beans. The beans are spirit people. We believe that everything has a spirit. Since you will be cooking with the beans, you need to be the one to care for them." Although I suspected lunacy at the time, I planted the beans.
My cooking endeavors with those beans were not unlike what I have described today with baby Swiss chard. A noticeable presence filled me.

Creamy Lemon Pepper dressing:
1 small clove garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lowfat buttermilk
1/2 cup whole yogurt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp lemon pepper

Rinse and dice
~2 cups baby Swiss chard
~2 cups diced purple cabbage
~1 cup diced sugar snap peas
~1 cup baby beet greens

Christina's vote: "I am reminded of an English garden"

1 comment:

  1. hey - i hate chard. i wonder if it's because i never steamed it. i've never heard of that.