You might laugh at my latest dish-washing realization. I left the dirty dishes after dinner one night and did not clean them until after dinner the next night. This meant that as I made the next night’s dinner, I had to elbow my way around stacks of plates and slippery piles of silverware.
Normally, this aggravates me and I sigh dramatically, letting things bang around to express my self-pity. This night, however, I realized: I have to accept this too. I chose not to wash these dishes, and now it’s as simple as accepting the challenge of working around them rather than beating myself up for not washing them the night before.
I can’t change what is, right? And I’m the one who decided to let the mess sit a full twenty-four hours, so what’s the point of resisting this reality? I’m not sure why that worked, but it did. I made dinner much more gracefully than normal, and cleaned up after dinner without a bit of disgruntled attitude.
Expanding this idea of accepting what is, do you ever come home to make dinner, open your fridge and cupboards (maybe they’re even well-stocked), but you just don’t see anything you want to make? There are plenty of options, but none of them are what you’re craving. Maybe you’re not even sure what you’re craving, but you’re hoping for a meal that will fix everything.
Rather than searching for the McMennamins tater tots that I know are not in my fridge or longing for Thai food to appear at my front door, I’m trying to look less emotionally at what exists in my fridge and cupboards, and by removing my resistance to reality, be more creative about discovering satisfying combinations.
A farmer friend posted an article that shares a similar story about accepting what is, rather than what you wish it would be, and being rewarded with abundance and discovery.
Rene Redzepi, chef and owner of a restaurant in Denmark that is dedicated to serving fresh and local food, found himself hindered by weather that ruined crops and animal feed, leaving few ingredients for his restaurant. He and his staff had only wilted carrots to serve that night for dinner, little else.
Rather than fail their mission, they accepted the fact of the wilted carrot and got busy brainstorming.
Their experimentation resulted in a new menu item that proved to be the favorite dish of that night, but even better, the chef discovered the abundant diversity of the vegetable world and wondered why menus always start with meat and why so much effort is put into creating meat when the plant kingdom offers such bounty.
He describes reading about attempts to create meat in petri dishes as creepy but also overly effortful:
“Yes, I understand that such advancements present an opportunity to feed many and supply a demand for the future, but is meat what people really want?”
Or is meat simply so familiar it blinds us to other options? I learned this during our first meatless month many years ago. Removing the convenience of turkey sandwiches and chicken-with-a-starch dinners opened our eyes to what else might equate a meal.
“Have the majority of us become so lazy, so set in our ways, that we have to put so much effort into preserving the familiar? Or do we just need to shake off some of our habits and put more thought into what has always been around us?”
That’s it! That’s at the heart of my food journey: put more thought into what has been around me all along. Being mindful around food starts to extend to being mindful throughout the day. Over time, a wilted carrot or a short walk can yield as much pleasure, satisfaction, and inspiration as more obviously stimulating things like chocolate cake or a jam-packed busy day.
As Redzepi says:
“I can tell you that after you discover the bounty of the plant kingdom, you’ll be able to … see possibilities you didn’t before. Elevating the vegetable in your diet and in your life will make things cheaper, healthier and—I promise you—much more delicious.”
I think this is what I’ve been working my way toward: elevating the ordinary in my life. I’m such a striver, always reaching toward the future and working to improve and acquire and build. But now that I’ve had more moments of slowing down and being present to what is right in front of me, the more often I’m surprised at the joy and even thrill of things as simple as library books, a conversation with my guy, or just a walk around the neighborhood.
“For us it all started by valuing the carrot as much as the steak. In gastronomic terms, when it comes to flavour, there is no difference between them. It just takes questioning some preconceptions, and a bit of imagination.”
Value the carrot as much as the steak, value the ordinary day-to-day as much as the exciting novelties and new adventures.
Well, we’ll see. It’s taken a long time to get here, and maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up with the habitual anxious striving, and I’ll devour my oatmeal without even noticing that I’ve made it never mind tasting it. But I have hope that as the still moments become more frequent, and accepting wilted carrots and dirty dishes becomes more natural, there will be peace of mind, and in peace of mind, there will contentment and even joy. Here’s hoping.