Resourcefulness

Weekend Meditation

It's been raining heavily here for several days now, and while it's not impossible to walk to a near by store for provisions, I'm not so inclined to venture out into the cold, wet lashings and lake-sized puddles. This has given me the opportunity to dig a little deeper into my pantry and see what I can create from what's at hand. This has also necessitated a slightly different approach to meal time. Instead of asking my usual question what do I want?, I begin by asking what do I have?

This has lead me to thinking about resourcefulness, a quality I much admire. A resourceful person, in my mind, can make a decent if not delicious meal from a few turnips, a scrap of onion and a tin can. They never hesitate to extend a impromptu dinner invitation, knowing that whatever they have on hand can be worked with. They're the people you want around when the earthquake/hurricane/tornado/flood hits, or on a camping trip or visit to a remote cabin. Whatever the circumstances, a resourceful person can make it work.

I've been thinking, then, of what qualities help a person to become resourceful. Fearlessness comes to mind. Or more particularly, a willingness to to not give into fear and uncertainty. Resourceful people are also a bit impatient. They do not wait for the perfect situation to be handed to them; they plunge in and create the perfect situation, or the best situation possible given the circumstances. They have a bit of daring, too, a dash of confidence that keeps them from hesitating and holding back. And finally, they admire utility and are therefore practical. They understand the importance of acquiring a few basic skills. And of course, they always carry a pocketknife (except maybe on an airplane).

These are also excellent qualities in a cook: boldness, creativity, a dash of confidence (or recklessness), all grounded in basic skills and utility. As a resourceful person in training, I strive for these qualities but I also hedge my bets by stocking my pantry full of things I know I can easily transform into a meal. Cans of tomatoes, white beans, and chickpeas; boxes of pasta and bags of rice; storage onions and fresh garlic; a few pots of herbs on the front stoop (or windowsill.) A few good oils, a few good vinegars; frozen peas and nuts in the freezer; a couple of serviceable bottles of wine stashed on their sides in the lower cupboard.

I still hesitate with that spontaneous invitation and can worry too much about making an impression. But I'm working on it. I like this notion of switching my focus away from my wants and onto what's already here. I have found over and over again that when I do this, there is no sense of sacrifice, and I never go wanting. This, then, is the secret that's not a secret, the home territory of resourcefulness and a peaceful heart: what is needed is always right at hand. What we want is here.

Related: Weekend Meditation: Confidence

(Image: Dana Velden)

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Dana Velden has just finished writing her first book: Finding Yourself in the Kitchen: Meditations and Recipes from a Mindful Cook which is based on her Weekend Meditation posts from The Kitchn. (Rodale Press, Fall, 2015) She lives in Oakland, CA.