Thursday, July 24, 2008


Right now, I am sitting at my table, alone. Danice is on a mission trip with her youth in France, and then in Germany, for two weeks. I miss her terribly. Lindsey is filming a month-long traditional Native canoe trek. Lynn is probably still at work, or practicing with her band. I am the lone roommate tonight.

I am trying to console myself with food. Don't worry, it's not comfort food. I'm not sitting here eating a litre of Haagen Dazs (though that does sound delicious now that I type it). I'm eating good food, food that is very good for me.

In fact, that's what I wanted to write about. My life has revolved around food as of late. I may have mentioned that I work at Jacob's Well, and I may have mentioned that we have a couple of urban gardens, nestled between a tofu factory and a sausage factory. I don't know if I mentioned that because we're not doing so well financially (ie. not receiving full paychecks), Jacob's Well has decided to give the staff a share of the gardens as part of our payment. So every week I take home a bag full of fresh green things from our Downtown Eastside gardens.

This has become a delight and a challenge. Often I find myself asking, "What is this green leaf? What is the stalk it is attached to? How should I eat it?" As we speak, there is a soup simmering on my stove. I started with my mom's "Peasant Bean Soup" recipe, and then I added a lot of things from the garden that I didn't know how else to eat. I threw in the Swiss chard. I chopped up the scapes and sauteed them and threw them in. If you don't know what a scape is, join the club. I just found out. They're these curly stems that grow out the top of garlic bulbs, and they taste like garlic, only milder. Gardeners cut them off so that the garlic will grow bigger. If you want pictures of garlic scapes and a recipe, check out my friend Emily's blog. She's good at eating well, and always makes sure to take excellent pictures of her food before consuming it.

As I sit here and eat raspberries (from the garden of course) mixed with yogurt, I will tell you more about why I've been thinking about food. A couple of weeks ago, I went on a trip, a trip called "The Gleaning Trip". Gleaning. Think Old Testament - the Israelite vineyard workers were commanded to leave some grapes on the vine for poor people to glean, and farmers were to leave the grain they dropped the first time around. I've heard interesting ideas about how we can allow for a similar gleaning practice today - like saving your coin change to give away, or setting out your bottles for bottle-collectors. But there's a group in the Okanagan that is taking gleaning very literally. They're called the Okanagan Gleaners. And every year, Jacob's Well sends a team to go serve with them for a week.

Here's what they do... they take the vegetables that orchard owners can't sell (they're small, they're weirdly shaped, they're spotted, they're rotten in one spot, etc.), and they chop them up, and they dry them in a huge dehydrator, and then they mix them all together in bags and send them overseas with YWAM and WorldVision as soup mix for orphanages and soup kitchens. They produce 5 million servings of soup a year. Isn't that incredible? Perfectly edible vegetables that would have otherwise ended up on the garbage heap are instead "gleaned" for the hungriest people on earth. I love it.

So we spent three hours every morning cutting the seeds, stems, and bad spots out of peppers, standing across from each other, talking, enjoying the fresh air... you know, your everyday feeding the hungry stuff. Every evening after supper, someone would share a reflection about the day. One day, Sheryl said she loved the way food brought us together - both around the peppers, and around the dinner table. She realized that the peppers we were holding in our hands would actually become part of other people. Seriously. I've never thought about that before - people across the world will eat the peppers in the soup mix, and their bodies will break down the food and incorporate the amino acids into their cells. Isn't that crazy? We really are what we eat.

Which means that when I help grow food in the Downtown Eastside and then eat it, I'm making the Downtown Eastside a part of my very body. That's so weird to think about. It makes me feel closer to the neighborhood. It makes me happy that we're growing good food for our friends there. It makes me excited to eat this soup.

My only problem now is dishes. They're piled up. I don't want to do them. Anyone want to come over and do my dishes? I'll give you some Garden Soup!


emily said...

yes, eating in place... something i want to do and think more about. Hey, did you know you can use radish leaves to make radish leaf soup? I love using the whole plant.

Anonymous said...

I think there are some gleaners in the Fraser Valley, too (the Fraser Valley Gleaners) - at least, there were a few years ago...not sure if they're still active.

Amy said...

I love your comments on food, and the biological process of digestion and it becoming part of you.
It's something I think about with Communion. I used to think about my week, and my sin, and if I was good enough to go up and take part of Christ's body.
Now I only ask myself this: "do I want his Body to become more of my body? As tiny parts of me break down, do I want tiny parts of his Body to replace them?" And those questions are easier to answer, and I think, more in line with the actual meaning of Communion. More and more of Him replacing more and more of me so that, though I am still fully me, I am also Him.