There was still a lot to do when I woke up early that rainy gray Saturday morning in March. In just a couple of hours I was to be at Gabriel’s Place setting up for a potluck and conversation with gardeners, farmers and foodies to connect and share our passion of growing, sharing and eating food. I felt my anxiety rise as I stared at the task list I had scribbled down the night before. One of the tasks “Make chicken and rice,” made me say aloud, “What was I thinking? I don’t have time for this.”
As I began chopping shallots that Leslie had planted in our Brendan’s Crossing garden last spring, I noticed it was quiet enough to hear my own thoughts and more importantly the words of Wendell Berry and Brian Andreas that I would later share with the group. This morning silence is a rare luxury afforded to me by the fact that my three boys had spent the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and my wife, Brooke, was still sound asleep. I took a deep breath, slowed down and chose to focus intently on this task and the gift of this quiet morning.
Though we had dried herbs in the cabinet, I decided a potluck for gardeners and farmers required a walk out back to the backyard of the Riddle House to see what other gifts might find their way into the pot. I pulled on a jacket and my mud boots and headed out into the drizzle and a rare moment of greater awareness.
I walked past the old garden the Mennonites tended for nearly a century before us.
I picked two of this spring’s first asparagus spears that Jason and Emily helped plant over 6 years ago.
I walked past the chicken that Chad gave us and that Johnna nursed back to health (Don’t worry! He stayed in the coop – for now.)
I crossed the bridge that Te helped build.
I picked some sage that Jane gave us.
I opened the garden gate that Riley built as part of the fence that Darrell built to keep out the pesky deer.
I picked the marjoram that Brianna planted from the soil that Carl and Paul helped her shovel.
I picked the kale that Oliver loves to eat fresh each time he visits the garden.
I picked the thyme that Mac planted.
I brought it all back and threw it in the pot that was a gift from my parents.
I added the stock that Brooke made.
And most importantly – I sipped the coffee that Les, Ryan, Adam and Courtney roasted on Greg and Mary’s farm.
On this one quiet morning, in this one dish, in this one moment of awareness, all these gifts and all these connections came together for me in this one pot.
I thought about the words of Brian Andreas that we painted on the wall of the community house kitchen over a decade ago. They’ve remained a constant truth as eating together has been the one consistent act through all the “fits and starts” of community life.
“There are things you do because they just feel right and they may make no sense and they may make no money and it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other and to eat each other’s cooking and say it was good.”
And on this morning in this dish I would add, “…to eat each other’s cooking and say it was good and realize it’s all connected.”
My wife Brooke often “comments” on the fact that I can never recreate a dish because while I may reference a combination of recipes, I tend to make it up as I go. I’m pretty certain this dish will never be recreated, but here are the ingredients if you want to try:
This story was originally published in the Diocese of Southern Ohio’s latest issue of Connections all about food and farming initiatives in our diocese. Find it and other stories about food and faith here!