Wearing rubber sandals, I walked to where the potatoes were buried under the dirt. I was unprepared for farm terrain, but the cool earth felt nice against my feet. It was a guilty pleasure, so long as I tried not to think about how this rich soil came to be. My back was burning against my sun baked shirt, but the breezy farmland made it too cool to sweat. My scattered human companions disappeared into rows of crops, which seemed to go for miles in every direction. Every so often a head would pop up, and I would shout my questions at it quickly before it sunk down again and was lost. The bugs were opportunists in this way also, they would wait for a moment of stillness, then land, tickling me and forcing me to stay in motion so that my mind was never really at rest unless I was working. This must be why farmers are such productive workers.
Potatoes. They live in the darkness, their eyes buried in the cool dirt. What must it be like for them to feel the sun for the first time. If someone described that moment, the first moment of light, to a buried potato, would the potato be able to fathom it?
Every time I dug into the sand with my rake and came up with a potato I felt lucky. Like I had just won a prize. The digging was addictive, and soon the rush of finding potatoes made me forget about the landing bugs, and I was lost, like my companions, to the secret world of the garden. I soon began wishing that I had an army to cook for so that I could stay here for hours.
It was a memory. I felt the light hit my eyelids and the muscles of my back straighten as I sat breathing, cross-legged on the floor, the backs of my hands against my knees. "open your arms if you want to be held" a quote by Rumi trails through my mind like a train with no end. The yoga instructor walks delicately over to the window to open the blinds, I can feel her feet as they stick gently to the wooden floor before pushing off. I imagine the potatoes, their journey from darkness, their denial of the existence of light, and then that incredible feeling of light surrounding, blazing, defying all previous reality.
I carry my meditation with me. I bring it home to the kitchen. I am standing, breathing, feeling the green, yellow and purple string beans as I snap off their ends. The colors, so bright that my pupils contract at the sight of them, physically altering me before I have even tasted a nutrient. I can smell the potatoes when they finish boiling, their odor, like the steam that fills a Thanksgiving kitchen.
When the new potatoes finish cooking I pour in the beans and watch as the colors brighten or dim back to green. In minutes I drain the whole pot of beans and potatoes into the strainer and rinse them with cool water. Into the empty pot I pour 4 Tbsp sesame oil. Sesame oil is exotic and sensual. It says I am interesting, I am different and undeniably irresistible. It is compelling, mystifying, it compliments the simple beauty of a fresh potato training the palate not to go searching for butter or ketchup. When the sesame oil is hot, I turn the heat off and add 4 cloves of purple garlic, fresh from the farmers market. I quickly pour this mixture over the potatoes and beans and add 4 small red onions sliced thin.
Then I dress the salad with 1 Tbsp rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp salad vinegar, 2 tsp Ume plum vinegar, a bit of salt. Over the top, pour, 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds.
I used 6 new potatoes, 3 red and 3 yellow, and 2 cups of beans for this salad. The recipe made about 5 cups.
Christina's vote: "An unusual delight!"