Monday, September 21, 2015

Soil, Security, and Love

Mary Francis Kennedy (MFK) Fisher, arguably the most passionate and important American food writer, wrote many lovely little books (my favorite of which is the 1941 Consider The Oyster). In the forward to The Gastronomical Me (1943) she writes,

"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and       mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens           that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one…." (353)

We know this. Food is not just love (as in our favorite childhood meal). It is security—from famine, from displacement, from exile.
For me, I see no line—a paper thin line at best, if there is a line—between our stories and our security. We need to be safe to tell our stories. If we tell our stories we increase our changes of safety.

When we love, deeply and wholly, we tell stories and they protect our love. They let it grow. We tell those stories over food, softly, or with laughter like bear hugs. Or we tell those stories despite hunger, despite loneliness and longing. This is what Mary Francis means.
A couple weeks ago, at the Garlic Fest in Vermont, I acquired pounds and pounds of papery, stinky hearts. They’re roasting right now, and they’re turning my slipcovers to scratch-and-sniff Olive Gardens. Romanian Red, Music and Hungarian Purple. Garlic confit, o as if there were any other name for love.

Garlic, o garlic, the apostrophe of the kitchen. Garlic is the occasion where I try to explain how I see soil and stories as “mingled and entwined that [I] cannot straightly think of one without the others…. And it is all one.” These soil-eggs, these stinky love-provers, these self-perpetuating seeds….
For me, the soil is not far from her holy trinity of Food, Security and Love. When I write about orange wine, or black garlic lemonade (pictured above), it’s all mediations of Food-stuffs, and companionship. But it is more about the soil that supported those grapes and those lemons.
It is a call to all of us that we keep our soil safe from many of our practices. And it is a call to keep everyone on all soils safe. Borders are bullshit.

When I write about the books I’ve read, I’m thinking about the spaces they make, and what those spaces teach us about how to treat our own places. How we can learn to love better, and read our food like we read books.
Show me someone without a story about garlic and I’ll show you someone that hasn't been listened to, carefully, in a very long time.

The intersection of things matter. It scares me how much intersectionality seems to disappear as we move into seasons of debates and fights.

 Aquariums and mermaid purses are how I write about securing that which we love. William Shatner is where I write about digging into my own history, and considering what good digging does.

Beautiful vinegars came home with me, too. And a tiny dish (for jewelry or garlic?) that had traveled back from Romania, here to me. Proper balsamic carries the story of its soil and its barrels in its taste. It is a perfect poem. Please hand me a spoon.

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