THE VEGGIE STEW

As much as I love writing this blog, there are days when I find myself stumped for material. Most of what I write springs organically from what I come across, food that I decide to make or read about, questions  I ask myself and that lead me to digging for answers. But sometimes, nothing even remotely interesting happens in my life to merit recording or, worse, nothing brings about a question, an idea, even rage. Having been forced to go deeper, if nothing else to find material for my (and hopefully yours) amusement, I finally stared at the pretty obvious fact that our lives are made of endless, minute episodes that we discard a priori, as uninteresting or of little consequence to the larger aspirations of our daily grinds.

All those thoughts that clutter our heads and intrude on our routine or  are sometimes worthy of being taken a little bit more seriously. It only took me 47 years to start appreciating the mundane and the not so obvious. Each day might not be an adventure on a grand scale but each encounter with another human being, every exchange or random act (not necessarily of kindness) is stamped with our intention and with all the baggage we lug with us to make us who we are. And I have realized how much pleasure I get from stopping with my decaf in hand, right after lunch, wondering what is the difference between a cortado and a macchiato, or from being able to spend an evening with a friend and really listening to why his day has been absolutely crappy and, without offering unsolicited advice, sliding over a glass wine and say “Here, let’s just enjoy ourselves tonight”. It all started with the soothing magic of preparing food, that never-ending miracle of creating something tasty from a bunch of unrelated ingredients. And then sharing it with the people I love – an act that women all over the world have been repeating for centuries, sometimes begrudgingly, sometimes overlooked, most of the time out of necessity – but finding myself in the company of raw food in need of a makeover has helped refine my concentration skills and my appreciation for what didn’t matter at all 20 years ago. I am finally accepting that life is not a sequence of thrills and lavish meals to devour impatiently but more like a hearty veggie stew to comfort me on a winter night.

The veggie stew was my nemesis for many years – it was the only dish my friend Sue knew to make when we lived together, not to mention the only one we could afford. My culinary skills at the time were in their infancy (to put it mildly) and she was worried about the unholy amount of corn flakes I would pass for dinner. So the veggie stews made their weekly appearance for years until I moved back to Italy vowing never to have a veggie stew ever again.

Guess what? Wish I had stopped to appreciate it when it mattered.


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