It was quite a week. Started out with the Boston Marathon bombing, continued with poison letters sent to a senator and the president, closely followed by a shameful sellout vote in the Senate against the wishes of 90% of Americans (so tell me again what our senators are supposed to be doing in Washington?), a fearsome factory explosion in Texas, all climaxed by killings and shootouts and the shutdown of Boston until it ended with one suspect DOA at a hospital and – after a Hollywood six hours – the other arriving barely alive in that same hospital. A surreal week.
My first response to the massacre on Patriot’s Day at the Marathon was, frankly, rage and despair (What Does Being Human Mean, Anyway?). How would it be possible to regain lost hope? By Wednesday, I had the first tentative gropings toward a possible answer, A Glimmer of Hope (1). A traditional answer, but no less powerful for all that: it was through music. (If you missed these amazing pieces, click the link and listen.)
A couple of days later a product catalog arrived in the mail. Not usually an uplifting experience, is it? But this is a different kind of catalog. On the inside back cover I found this:
Another glimmer of hope it was, shining out from the kitchen.
The colorful painting is by Jeri Penzey, wife of Bill Penzey, owner of Penzey’s herbs and spices. I always look forward to their catalog not just for checking out my spice supplies, but for its recipes and interesting stories about people. Along with their spices, Penzey’s sells hope and love and sharing and even speaking one’s mind openly and bravely. Bill Penzey, husband to artist Jeri, is the boss. He’s the one who calls ’em as he sees ’em, even on controversial issues where another businessman might hold his tongue lest he offend some customers.
This catalog issue (which you can download at the link above) is a two-parter dedicated to Moms: “Mother’s Day is a refreshing chance to celebrate both true heroes and what really works in life. Moms freely give of themselves, of their time, effort, and even money, selflessly, not for personal gain but simply to make the lives of others better. For this they are heroes.”
Heroes come in lots of shapes and sizes, and they do lots of different things, whether or not there are TV cameras watching them. Maybe it’s the spirit in which they do those things that’s part of their heroism. Back to Bill Penzey’s note: “Kindness works”:
Our years of selling spices have taught us that cooking is not a one size fits all world: far from it. We’ve learned the wonder of cooking lies in the incredible diversity of the people who cook, and in the incredible variety of the food they cook. Over the years we have come to understand for all of our differences…. people who cook have something in common. They care enough to make the lives of those around them better. The research shows that the kindness of cooks works. People who share dinner together at the kitchen table go on to share a brighter future. A brighter future made possible by people with the kindness to build it one meal at a time… Through our pages we hope to share the greater family of human kindness that we’ve found all cooks belong to. Come along and join us.
Wonderful idea, isn’t it? The greater family of human kindness. I want to believe in it, even though it’s been tough going these days. In fact, I’m CHOOSING to believe in it. I’ve always believed that if all meetings and conferences and negotiations were obliged to begin with sharing a meal, they’d go a whole lot smoother. Even if it doesn’t solve all problems,breaking bread together can ease them.
Rinsing, peeling, chop chop chop, assembling the ingredients: mindless, or meditative? Chore or offering?
In the Hebrew Bible, elder son Esau sold his birthright to his younger brother for a mess of pottage. This week we saw an elder brother and a younger tragically led astray — by what? Not by a mess of pottage, that’s for sure! (Lentils are the Biblical pottage. This supper is curried red lentil soup with Swiss chard and a slice of bread. Elemental.)
It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be expensive, it doesn’t have to be elaborate. All it has to be is from your hands, and from your heart. I think the Penzeys have it right: Heal the World. Cook Dinner Tonight.