So this past Sunday it was raining in the Bay Area. Cold and wet.
But that afternoon at CounterPULSE in San Francisco, an intimate crew of folks braved the rain, brought food, shared stories and ate together. The topic was, “what are the factors that support or prevent us from cooking meals on a regular basis”. What I am finding about food is, no matter what the topic might be, the food will direct the path of discussion.
Most of the stories centered around the foods we grew up with. Travis talked about his grandma’s marinara sauce and how her special ingredient was brown sugar added to the sauce. His story was sweet and loving and I could feel his grandma’s love for him in his story. Chika brought these delicious Croquettes that she made and shared the story of how her grandmother used to make them for her in Japan. Joe told a story about southern cooking that was hilarious and alarming but a little too controversial for me recount here (you had to be there!). I learned a great deal about food, something I never cease to be amazed at as I continue to hear these personal stories, folklore about food in our families and communities.
But the biggest revelation was something I learned about my own food folklore that I hadn’t realized until that day.
Ellen, who is directing my piece, “Our Daily Bread”, asked me about my recession stew. This is a stew I created a couple of years ago. She asked me if the stew I created was inspired by the time I spent in Brasil. I thought about it for a moment but realized as much as I love eating and cooking Brasilian food, I knew that the stew wasn’t connected to that experience. I wasn’t sure what inspired the creation of that stew. And then it came to me.
My parents divorced when I was around 11 years old. Up until that time, my mother was a stay at home mom and both she and my father were great cooks. When my parents separated and I went to live with my mother, she started to work and wasn’t home regularly to cook food. In fact, she didn’t even shop for food on a regular basis at that point. The combination of working and struggling to make ends meet meant that there were many times when dinner was a combination of what ever ingredients happened to be in the cupboard and refrigerator. These dishes often did not have names but were improvised. And they always tasted GOOD!
What I realized Sunday when pondering Ellen’s question was that my recession stew was inspired by the improvisational/survival skills of my mother- who could take a little of this, scraps of that and make a delicious feast. It is in this spirit that I created Recession Stew which many of the ingredients can change based on what is in your kitchen. It doesn’t take much to fill the belly of a cash strapped hungry person- just a willingness to improvise and a lot of love.
Eat well and stay tuned for more opportunities to break bread together and share stories…it is a nourishing revolution…