Usually, spending some time in the kitchen is my automatic response to life's difficult times. Chopping vegetables, feeding people, stocking the pantry are things I turn to when I feel helpless and it seems like nothing can be done. But today I'm not finding my usual solace. I let my comforting cup of tea grow cold and unappetizing, and I stand for minutes in front of the open refrigerator, completely uninspired or motivated.
Maybe I should just put on the headphones and clean, I say out loud. Lord knows the kitchen floor could use it. But somehow I become distracted and wander away, restlessly futzing with the pillows on the couch and shuffling stacks of paper on the dining room table.
My eye wanders through the doorway and back into the kitchen. There on my countertop are two rather unattractive looking sweet potatoes, looking so sad and forlorn that I find myself moving towards them. They're bent and bumpy and still a little dusty with dirt. I touch one and the skin is rough and pocked with scars. I pick them up and consider the possibilities.
I don't do anything fancy. I just cut them up and toss them in some oil and salt and roast them in a hot oven with a few whole cloves of garlic. I call a friend who comes over with a bit of crumbly goat's cheese and some bread. We slice the bread thin and toast it and smear the sweet potatoes and garlic on top, pressing spinach leaves on top and sprinkling cheese all over. We sit down at the table and in the middle of our muddle, we have a snack.
The sweet potatoes are, of course, a perfect response to this sad and restless morning, for they are more than just a handful of vegetables. With their everyday, roughshod looks and their brilliant orange flesh, they are rooted ambassadors from deep in the earth, promising rich sweet flavor and a sturdy, practical nourishment. The pleasure they offer is simple, appropriate to the day, and it's just enough to see us through.
One of the more difficult truths of being alive is that no matter how distressing the events around us are, no matter that buildings tumble and water rushes forward to sweep it all away, and scary fires burn hotter than we can imagine, still we must eat. We must sustain and stay strong. Like I said, it's been tough so please be especially careful and try a little tenderness this week. Planet Earth and all her inhabitants sure can use it.
(Image: Dana Velden)