The vegetables I discovered in my crisper this morning were not upholding the expectations of their location very well. In other words, they will never again be described as crisp. If I don't rescue them today, they are doomed to the compost carton and since that would be a crying shame, I pull out my knife and get to work.
I love the alchemical process of cooking. It tugs at something deep and ancient inside of me, that profoundly human need to transform and change things matching up with an equally profound need to eat. To cook. To bake. To combine this with that and let it ferment. What a magical process, this turning everyday materials into gold.
So I smile as I stare down at the tangle of vegetables on my cutting board: three rubbery carrots, a pale, limp celery stalk and a few bruised and beyond their prime turnips. In my kitchen, old vegetables are actually a bonus. If they're not moldy or completely desiccated and wrinkled, they usually end up in a stew or braise where they add a nice sweetness. And since they're partially dehydrated, they seem to absorb the flavors of whatever I throw in the pot with them. Today that would be some leftover red wine and a pound of pork sausage meat. And a can of stewed tomatoes, maybe some mushrooms if I make it out to the store.
A few, deliciously scented hours later, a proper dinner is ready.
And so, too, in this life we have the opportunity to change and transform ourselves. The constant stream of choices and challenges that make up our day cook us into something hopefully tasty, or at least interesting. My advice is to be careful about what you throw away and see instead if you can't transform the unwanted and bothersome bits and pieces into something more interesting and useful. It may seem easier just to toss them away, but it is infinitely more powerful (and wise) to see if we can't somehow use them up instead.
Besides, we can't really throw anything away, including those old vegetables. We think they're gone forever but really we're just moving them to another location which (we know this) we're bound to stumble into sooner or later. So may you find the magic of alchemy in your kitchen today and turn a handful of ordinary vegetables, and maybe even your day or (what the heck) your life, into a feast beyond compare.
* * *
I hope you enjoyed this encore Weekend Meditation, originally posted in January, 2011. I will be posting these vintage posts every Sunday (with the occasional new post, if I can manage!) for the next several months while I focus on writing my first book.