Monday, December 21, 2009

Slow As

When I was a 19 and a sophomore in college I started trading Grateful Dead shows. I quickly branched out into Phish and all sorts of other goodies, thanks to the rapidly growing interwebs. I connected with a guy in Winston-Salem, NC, Peter, who had lots of masters of rare Phish shows and we did a fair bit of trading over the years. We also struck up an email correspondence of sorts (he was in grad school for film making, which meant he was an excellent writer and procrastinator - outstanding qualities in a correspondent) and one email in particular has always stuck with me. He was trying to quit smoking and in place of cigarettes he was devoting himself to being totally present and focused on whatever he was eating or drinking. I got a long detailed letter one day about a glass of cold cold water that he drank in his backyard, on one of those old-school plastic webbed lawn chairs. It was beautiful and inspiring in an odd sort of way, enough to stay vivid in my memory these 15 long years. I can still see the spacing of his paragraphs and the image of him in that lawn chair, drinking out of a mason jar remains as it was the day his words first conjured it in my mind.

For whatever reason I've been thinking about the way Peter devoted himself to the act of nourishing his body, and the lucidity he generated around something so simple as a glass of water. Maybe I've been hitting the sweets a bit to hard, maybe the absence of truly good food has finally sunk in, maybe I'm just having culinary sensory overload... who knows. But I thought of Peter and his glass of water again 3 days ago and its made a difference.

I was making myself oatmeal for breakfast and as I went to get the brown sugar my stomach lurched. I couldn't bring myself to heap a glob of that lovely brown sugary goodness onto my already lovely oatmeal. Walnuts got stirred in instead. And as I sat there eating my plain oatmeal with walnuts I really paid attention to it.

Oatmeal. Walnuts. Cold glass of milk. Cool smooth wooden table. Tight hard ridges of a cotton placemat and soft thin cotton napkin. Sun pouring in the patio doors, playing off mounds of snow.

Simple, clean, uncomplicated sensory experiences. But taken as they are, on their own terms, it was beautiful and I was hooked. And the key to the experience for me was the pure oatmeal, the pure walnuts. So I've been looking for other chances to slow down, pare down and really take my food on its own terms, for what it is, unadulterated by fake flavors of substances I've been trained to crave by the industrial food marketing comples.

Grapefruit today at lunch, accompanied by my husband's good natured, rapid fire cadence against the backdrop of a rare and momentary silence in the house.

And shortly there after, a drop of blackstrap molasses, wiped off the bottle after I added a bunch to my chili.

Fireman save my child!

I'm sure I've tasted molasses before, but good golly this was something else entirely. I had another taste, and another. Soon I was licking the spoon and scraping the measuring cup out with my fingers.

Tomorrow molasses meets oatmeal. The walnuts aren't invited. I'm almost willing to go to bed early just to get to breakfast time already. And I'm now eagerly looking for other things to eat, and savour. To get on molasses time with and really truly sink in to it...

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