Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Balancing Act

I love this time of year.

Perhaps you think that's because I'm still a child at heart, longing for the magic and surprise of Christmas Day and looking forward to all the presents. Or perhaps you may think it's because I love baking so much that a month or more of constant cooking gives me a real happiness kick.

I admit, those are both partly true (though I would point out that I don't expect and don't need very much in the way of presents any more). I do love the wonder and joy of the holidays and the glorious impulse to share generously.

But there's more to it than that. I've learned over the years that given my tendency to do so much during the last month or two of the year, this is also a prime time to encourage myself to slow down and to find moments of stillness. I know it seems completely contradictory! But even though I've committed myself to a great deal of activity, I make the time to sit in the peace of an evening, pull a blanket close, and turn inward just a little.

Ancient cultures looked at this season as one for pulling back, huddling close to a fire, and waiting for the days to lengthen and the sunlight to return for another year and another cycle of life. I think there's something to be said for experiencing that even now, even if it's only an interior journey, and this time of year finds me reviewing my journals and looking back at where I've been over the course of the year... and where I want to go next.

It's tricky, balancing that holiday frenzy of doing with this being in preparation for the New Year. For me, though, it's necessary. So I hope you'll forgive this philosophical foray as we head into the holiday weekend.

Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of giving away my car, and in just two weeks, this blog will also celebrate its third anniversary. Both dates, seemingly unrelated, signaled the beginning of an intertwining path that combined my love of food with a deepening awareness of environmental problems and potential solutions. The more I've learned about either one, the more I've seen connections with the other, and keeping my mind well fed has led to my understanding better what it takes to keep my body fed.

I find I'm becoming a more dedicated locavore (the word of the year, according to Oxford University Press), learning to find more food sources in my immediate area as well as to make more of my foods (even "convenience" foods like pasta) myself. The more I've learned and tried, the more I want to try my hand at providing more of my own food. And the more I've done, the more confident I've felt in sharing what I've learned with others. (Thanks to the kind folks at The Ethicurean, especially the ever-supportive Bonnie, I've been given a wonderful opportunity to reach an even broader audience and to learn from even more people.)

But I'm also finding that it's getting nearly impossible for me to write about food without considering the implications of my choices on the world around me. It's not a bad thing, but it does add a layer of thought to how I approach everything I eat. I firmly believe that we are on course for a very different way of life, and as I find inspiration in how others out here on the "Interwebs" are meeting that challenge, I'm gradually seeing my own life change. It's not easy: too often I find myself getting depressed about the latest news or our seeming inability to do anything to change course, but I take heart from some of the thoughtful bloggers out there and remind myself that, as Sharon at Casaubon's Book puts it, I'm running a marathon, metaphorically speaking, and I have to pace myself.

That's why in the coming months you are likely to find some changes on this site. I hope to add a section of environmental links in the sidebar, pointing out some of the places where I find news and inspiration. I hope to come up with another list of goals for the coming year on this blog, challenging myself to try new techniques or to become more of an urban homesteader. I hope to make time for even more food preservation next year (once I've dug through my cookbooks to see what else I might make). And it's also quite likely that I'll be simplifying some of my cooking (though probably not all) and searching for even more local foods or substitutes.

I'm not planning on shifting my style of writing to one of gloom and doom or one of preachiness. Heaven knows it took me long enough to open my eyes and to start learning, and I surely don't have all the answers. In fact, Dear Readers, I have long valued your thoughtful commentary and hope that you will continue to share your own ideas to keep me challenged. I'm just trying to change my world by changing myself, and I hope that you'll see positive changes reflected in this space.

My lovely friend, the faithful Persephone, surprised me with a precious little card today containing the Theodore Roethke poem "The Waking," which contained a line all too familiar and appropriate: "I learn by going where I have to go." So I'm taking another step on this journey into a wonderful unknown, hoping to find more connections in my life and to make this passion for good food representative of my own thinking, believing, and living.

As we head into the holiday weekend, I hope that you will find some quiet corner of a day to stop -- to give thanks, to enjoy what is given to you to enjoy, to connect with someone -- to live fully. That's what I'll be trying to do in between the baking and the rest of the holiday frenzy, and if I don't make it back here to blog about it all for a few days, you'll know why.

Whether you've been reading this little site since the beginning or are a new guest -- whether I've had the privilege to meet you, the honor of calling you "friend," or the simple delight of exchanging comments with you -- thank you. I am grateful for your presence in my life and in this little online kitchen.

Good things are simmering, and you're invited to the table. Happy Thanksgiving!


At 11/23/2007 9:34 AM, Blogger Ed Bruske said...

Jennifer, I think it's all about encouraging cooks to become more engaged with what's happening to the planet. Right on...

At 11/23/2007 3:16 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Thanks, Ed. I guess it comes down to understanding the truth behind the old saw, "You are what you eat."


Post a Comment

<< Home