One of our greatest blessings is the ability to enjoy acts of simplicity. Sure, our overactive social media’d brains appear to prefer thousands of neurons firing every second. In fact, our brains need a bit of recovery time, and sometimes it comes when we least expect it.
My recent vacation trip to western New York is my new standard of relaxing. Knowing I would need a few days of leave after traveling with my boss, I planned a trip to see a dear friend, spend precious days away from the hustle and bustle of the office (still checking email, of course), and enjoy life at a slower pace. And Kaylan’s house was the place to be. Although she is in the midst of her own hurry to have a baby, her home has retained a calm, and even in her preparation, great care has been taken to preserve a spirit of quiet.
Sunday is a day that can easily turn into a scramble. The hustle to get ready for Monday, and the hours spent completing everything you neglected on Saturday, usually make the weekend fly by in those precious hours before The Simpsons. But our Sunday scramble was filled with laughter and family cooking - my two favorite things! Our simple lunch of pretzels, almond butter, carrots, apples, bread with cheese and thinly sliced radishes was an invigorating start to an afternoon of preparing beet burgers, calzones and mac and cheese. If you’ve never given a radish a chance, this is a good introduction. These little red gems are deliciously crunchy when thinly sliced and eaten raw on top of salad greens or bread with cheese. Trust me, try it.
I can’t complain about a single meal. And yes, I will count our endless supply of Sour Patch Kids as a meal! We enjoyed black bean cakes with chipotle corn sauce, beet burgers, Indian food with homemade paneer, mockaritas and ridiculously good peanut butter ice cream with chocolate sauce. Each meal was eaten with the knowledge that we had spent a fulfilling day despite some rainy weather. Seeing Houghton in the spring was a taste of lush farmland and late dogwood blooms. There’s plenty more to do in New York than just see the city.
On my last day, we shared a picnic in Highland Park in Rochester. Among the raisins and almonds, the meat of the meal was bread and cheese. I could not ignore the feeling that we were sharing communion, a thanksgiving in the park for friendship and memories, a vivid reliving of our time spent together. Such simple food triggered a complex emotional experience. At least, those were the neurons that my brain was firing, and it was an unexpected thrill that could only have been experienced in that moment.
Not only did I instantly relive my time with Kaylan, but I remembered the weeks I spent hiking the Camino de Santiago with my mother. Most days, our snack or lunch on the trail was made up of bread, cheese, maybe jamon serrano, a smoked sliced ham that we were very tired of after 6 weeks. Dried fruit and a few pieces of chocolate with hazelnuts or almonds gave us the sugar boost we needed to soldier on. Stopping on a hillside, or under the shade of a tree to break bread allowed us to intimately experience our environment, and make sacred memories of our trip. Don’t worry, I’m working on a longer blog for these stories. And Peru! Oh, the food of Peru!
Let that smell of a familiar meal bring on a wave of memory, or enjoy your surroundings whether alone or with friends or family. Food is a sacrament and eating creates community. If you take that knowledge to every meal, however simple, be prepared to gain perspective.