Kindness. Compromise. Empathy.
In 2011, I started a blog as a sort of writing practice. How hard could it be? Choose a word. Write some stuff. Post.
A friend in my writing group generously offered to create the banner with my title for the blog and splashed bright, colorful, bold letters across the top of the page: W.O.R.D.S. Have color. Have vision. Have power. I gave it a subtitle: Stories about life and sometimes food. I forged ahead.
Photographs of my father and grandmother were awful, but I didn’t think they’d be offended. Both had long since passed on. A story about making pizza at home with my nieces netted me a lucrative writing contract.
It’s been said that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.
In November 2012, I was blindsided by a diagnosis of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. I quit my music performance group and, in 2013, as a result of complications, spent six months in hospitals and rehab. For a short time, I was completely incapacitated without use of my arms or hands. I could not walk and was confined to a wheelchair. But I had my laptop and dictation software. I kept posting.
As much as I tried to avoid the excrement of politics ─ the racism, classism, sexism, and religious nationalism ─ there were days when the poop landed square on my pages. Circumstances, of course, will compel me to step into the mess again. Still, honor, generosity, and love — genuine goodness and human kindness — are real. Inner conflicts are powerful. But here’s the reality. When I focus on the good, I write from joy.
Focus on living a food inspired life.
I clung to this like a mantra, a talisman, a life raft. Sometimes I wrote about what I ate or what I cooked.
I promised myself to write about contemporary Black chefs and their approaches to food. Feeling overwhelmed with my body mass index, I joined Weight Watchers. I explored new recipes, and I started feeling at ease. I realized that mine was already a food inspired life.
“Doggone it! There’s always something,” my mother used to say.
In March 2020, as the lockdown began, my monthly intravenous immune suppressing infusions were put on hold for the first time in nine years.
“It’s unsafe,” said the nurse coming to my apartment, “to continue to administer in your home.” She worked in a hospital flooded with COVID. My neurologist said, “Let’s see how you get on. If necessary, you can go to the hospital.”
“Um. Aren’t people in hospitals dying of COVID? No thanks.”
On the bright side, it seemed that the whole world was returning to the joy of cooking and eating at home. The stillness of roads without tires slapping cement and the silence of streets without human chatter filled me with pleasure. Across the street on the college grounds and nature walk, I saw a fox. Deer, unmolested by our human presence, returned to nibble plants. Scores of butterflies and moths fluttered in the trees across the road and in the trees outside my window.
The Canal Grande, in Venice, Italy, became so clear that you could see dolphins, octopus, and crabs in the waters. This had me whooping for joy.
“Keep the visitors away,” I said. “Keep the big cruisers out of the canals!” For me, the lockdown presented an image of paradise. I relaxed in the fluctuating winds, rain, snow, and sunny days. Contemplating food prep, I watched cooking shows, read food memoirs, and researched food writers. It was a sloooow-down time, making way for delights like the writings of Gullah culinary anthropologist Verta Mae Grosvenor and the food adventures of Peter Mayle.
I put aside concerns about the pandemic as my food inspired life consumed me.
If I may say so myself ─ and I do ─ my tiny kitchen is a chef-worthy kitchen. Two heavy duty juicers cram against each other and line up near the microwave where spiralizer and electric kettle are squished near the edge of the counter. A large food processor nestles near a high-powered blender (one that converts grains to flour) and an air fryer. The pressure cooker/instant pot, rice cooker, and bread machine are jammed into remaining space. And still, I desire more…a standing mixer perhaps?
My wonderful friend Rae, an amazing artist, writer, and food enthusiast, sent me a gift: a hydroponic planter. Now, I thought, I can fancy myself a “farm to table” cook. There was no space for the 6″ x 14″ planter in the kitchen, so I tucked it on a side table between the sofa and the living room wall.
For starters, I put basil, Bibb lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and spinach into the germination sponges.
In just a short time, I had two very large lettuce plants, enough for salad.
Magical! I pinched a leaf and placed it on my tongue. It was tender, delicate in flavor and almost weightless. The basil grew like a wild thing, while the spinach took its sweet time. The tomatoes? This was something really special. In almost no time, I had to re-pot the basil and the tomatoes.
Farm to table? Perhaps not. But it’s settled. Mine is already a food inspired life.