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To Sustain Us

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

This experience doesn’t exist today. Not readily, not easily. Sure it still does for the few who are not willing to depart from what they know is the true essence of health and wellbeing but for most this experience can’t be found or created anywhere besides our memories, or TV shows of yore. The embrace is non-existent, the closeness is shunned, even the information shared through our eyes is hindered as we stand so far apart. The veil of suspicion and worry too heavy to properly see through. Imagine traversing a land in which you don’t speak the language, how successful will you now be without the facial cues to find the common ground in the invisible language we all speak? How do you portray your kindness, your generosity, your sincerity, your thanks when you can’t even see the smile let alone feel their hand in yours?

I can’t reconcile this. I hear people in passing say “you get used to it!” as they reach up to remove the mask they forgot they were wearing. And I disagree. Wholeheartedly. And I don’t want to get used to it. I can’t quite wrap my head around that anywhere in the world I go to at this time I will be up against the same sea of masked faces, the same level of paranoia. I’m not saying this in judgement, I’m saying this as my truth which is entirely unwelcome in most circles right now, I know that. The squeeze of my heart, the pit in my stomach, as I sit with others and we discuss the state of the world from very different perspectives. And that’s ok, we can have varied points of views, we shouldn’t all desire to be the same. Yet I know that I am so outside the norm now that it’s not just the fanciful fringe I reside on, it’s another planet altogether. I miss feeling ok. Will I ever feel ready and safe to reintegrate my kids into the world? It’s exhausting. We all feel the exhaustion, no matter what plane we’re on. Such a heaviness we carry.

Visiting our new farm friends, note Lily’s face.

But this was meant to be about feeling nourished so let me get back to the food for a minute. Watching with deep enjoyment as Jamie and Gennaro traipse through the Italian hills, enjoying a bounty of delicacies. Olive oil so thick, verdant and rich, I can almost smell it. The freshly hunted meat, seasoned simply and cooked over an actual fire until the meat slides from the bone. The pasta, gah! So silky in its sauce, a snowy mountain of freshly grated parm atop. How many people don’t eat pasta? I think this while I watch. How many people are overthinking their food choice to death right at this minute? Yet one way we have separated ourselves from pleasure, from humanness, from living, on the long march we’ve made up the hill towards this ‘new reality’ that is now freely touted by the masses. There is a correlation, stay with me.

The simple but super accessible joy that is readily available at every meal you have. How long has it been since you clapped your hands at the meal before you? Since you closed your eyes as your mouth was flooded with the flavour of homemade food. All that encompasses — gathering, intentionality, consideration, flavour, thought, heart, wisdom, knowledge. LOVE. Recipes handed down for generations, or perhaps accessed only through your own intuition. Pairing flavours, finding the right balance of salty, sweet, bitter and sour. The beauty of marrying all of the senses how it looks, smells, tastes. Don’t forget hearing — hearing your food prepared whets your appetite. Chop chop chop, sizzle sizzle sizzle. Pans bumping onto the stove, the oven door closing, the sink being filled and emptied. ALL of this is the symphony of the meal. Sitting down to enjoy it is allowing yourself to be in the dance of life. And yet we discouraged such pleasure for decades now. Don’t eat this, only eat that, never eat these, sometimes have this but only this much. Oy! What an intense waste of our time, our very precious time in this very precarious life. To agonize over the next bite, should it be this or should it be that. How could we allow ourselves this constant discord with something so totally essential to life itself?

We’ve been divorcing ourselves for so long, falling out of love, discouraged to even imagine life as harmonious. Food is integral to this quest. Desensitized unfeeling automatons, this is the messaging. It’s easy to see at this moment but it’s been the plan for a long time. But why?? Who wants us to be so banal and rigid in our life choices? Go to school for this long, get this degree, do this job, stay for this many years, live in this house, marry this person, drive this car, eat this food, retire at this time, accept your reward for working hard for decades, somehow enjoy life now, the life you’ve been putting off all along. Self-denial of the highest level that is the name of the game. I wonder who wins when we all decide to live this way.

Back to Jamie, he’s visiting another Italian nonna, this one sharing her history of being a Jew in 1938. Her family escaping German occupation, hiding in the caves. The intense fear and then…how it ended, and how life began again. It was hard to even remember now, she said. They share her family’s recipe for stuffed artichokes, a recipe that’s never been written down. And now another meal with dozens of new friends, a sharing board heaped with polenta and stewed boar, all the hands grappling and serving one another, tasting from one another’s fork. Arms draping across shoulders, faces so close to one another. The breathtaking views of the countryside, the sensory-enriched meals, the customs, the beauty. I’ve never been to Italy. Have I missed it? My heart quite actually aches thinking so. I can’t allow myself to believe it, I feel the fear in the clench of my jaw, the furrow of my brow. How can it be anywhere and everywhere in the world that is now shuttered in, people enclosing themselves from anyone else, from an invisible threat that may or may not be lurking, from life itself.

Life is not cancelled. We each get to choose how this looks, what we can sustain. I have to keep a nugget of faith deep in my heart, like a kernel waiting to burst, that things will right themselves in the world. Or perhaps simply that a new version of my world will be created. I can’t say for sure I’ll get to Italy and revel in the warmth of the Mediterranean sunshine, the deep forests, the high mountains. But I will indulge at every chance I get (which is every moment I’m conscious of choice) in the glory of life and the bounty and festivity of nourishing others and myself.

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