Food, like so many other things, doesn’t just happen. It takes time, patience, and effort. You have to want to achieve the final goal — a beautiful tomato or a fantastic meal — but don’t miss out on what it takes to get there.
Spend even a little time with a farmer or chef and it becomes readily apparent that you have to focus on and enjoy the whole process, not just the finished product. That tomato bisque you had for lunch began with a seed many months ago and involved weeds, compost, heat, bugs, a chef’s trip to the market, a cook not showing for a shift, careful peeling and seasoning, and the outrageous fun that is using a stick blender.
Ask me about my day in a kitchen and I will describe the insurmountable task completed, the drama circumvented, the discovery of a shortcut, and how the team worked like a machine. The finished plate seems so uninteresting by comparison.
Ask me about a favorite meal and there’s a good chance I’ll tell you about what I burned on the first attempt, the success that resulted in the food being eaten right off the stove, the friends who shared it, and of course I’ll make you admire my war wounds.
Cliches that reference this abound. In a society where we want things now, finished, and perfect, the enjoyment of the journey is lost. Yet, life would be so boring if everything was “done.” It’s taken me 40 years to figure it out, but enjoying the process is so much more rewarding.
When we lived in Portland, Oregon, one of my frequent complaints was that the food world there was “done.” Every chef had a garden, all of them sourced local, each restaurant was “sustainable,” Styrofoam had been banned for years, and the city was a model for recycling. It was downright boring; so we moved.
Watching something grow and change is where the fun is. And making it happen is the worthiest of goals. When something is enjoyed, it doesn’t really seem like work.
Living in Memphis has made me re-evaluate how I set my goals. They cannot just be items to just check off a list. Memphis food involves ever-evolving processes and I don’t want to miss a thing. There aren’t enough hours in the day to participate in everything that is changing and growing. If you don’t believe me, you need to venture away from Outback Steakhouse once in a while.
The mental “fresh start” initiated by the roll of the calendar is a great time to re-evaluate your goals, for yourself and the town you live in.
If I want “done,” I can just pop a Stouffer’s lasagna in the microwave. Instead I think I’ll experiment with a homemade sauce when friends come to dinner next week. If I want “easy,” I can cruise through Schnucks, but I think I’ll spend an hour or more at the Tsumani Saturday Winter Market and snag the new duo cheese from Bonnie Blue and be the first to hear what the farmers plan for next year. If I want “perfect,” I’ll watch the Duke game on TV, but I think I’d rather yell my head off when Antonio Barton makes a three, while I’m decked out in my super-cool, Tiger blue cowboy boots.
There’s just no fun in “done,” “easy,” “quick,” or “perfect.”
So what are my goals for the year? They all involve helping Memphis’s amazing local food system to grow. Promote farmers markets. Help chefs find local. Publish a food magazine. Work with the Health Department and Food Advisory Council to change food regulations. Advance the sustainability of our restaurants with Project Green Fork. Speak to church, garden and other groups about the benefits of local food. Volunteer at a community garden. I’ll probably try to throw in a cooking demo or two, because even if I convince just one more person to enjoy food and cook, it’s all worth it. Goals don’t have to be monumental to be worthwhile.
Being a list person, I love nothing more than to check off completed tasks. But this isn’t that type of list. It’s a process and I plan to enjoy every minute of it. 2011 promises to be a fantastic journey. And while I’d love to dig in to some of the other issues that are growing and changing in Memphis, it looks like I’ve got a full plate.
So that begs the question, what do you have on your plate for 2011? Come into the “kitchen,” where all the cool stuff happens. Get your hands dirty. Burn something. Make something beautiful. Be a part of a team. Experience being “in the weeds” …and getting out. Are you going to participate in the process of positive change, or just belly-ache at the table until the finished meal arrives?
Instead of focusing on what we DON’T have, let’s direct our attention, time and money on what we do. “Voting with our dollars” will in time bring more of what we wish Memphis to be. If we don’t support the resturaunts and businesses that we DO have, then how can we expect more to want to begin and flourish? None of this is going to happen overnight, by the way. It takes vision and courage to make change happen. So, let me end this with a few of the businesses that warm my heart about Memphis – Au Fond, Memphis Farmer’s Market (and the wealth of other farmer’s markets that have sprouted up in the area), Miss Cordelia’s, and not to forget Edible Memphis (among many, many others I could list here). Keep up the good fight – your efforts are not lost on all in this city.
A great and inspiring piece. Personally, while I enjoy the winter months and the extra time it affords to spend indoors with family, I am still counting the days until the last frost allows me to once again get my hands dirty.
As for working towards a better city, there is no winter. Thank you for reminding us of that.
(please note that my above comment was directed at a previous comment that has been erased, and not at the article itself.) I very much enjoyed the article and it’s positivity. thank you.
shekel – you put roadblocks into every conversation rather than trying to further the conversation. methinks this is why you’re being deleted. why don’t you start your own blog?
Shekel, you seem to have a pretty “Memphis-like” chip on your shoulder.
btw, the concept of free speech doesn’t mean you can come into someone’s house, insult the host, swear at her kids, badmouth her cooking and then when asked to leave, invoke the 1st Amendment. This is a blog, not owned or run by you, and therefore if the owner wishes to delete posts, you are free to post at another blog, or start your own. Blog owners everywhere (not just in Memphis) do this regularly.
chip on MY shoulder ?? it seems that many who post here must have some sort of unanimity of thought and approach in order to be ‘accepted’ as a poster in the CLIQUE !
pardon me, but I find that repressive and inappropriate to say the least……and very very ODD
If SCM is doing contractual work for The City of Memphis, TN, then public discourse is in order…i.e. SCM being a recipient of public tax dollars..
CONTRARY to your feeble assertion, I have NOT ‘come into someone’s HOUSE, and DO ANY SUCH THING..
Your assertions are inflammatory to say the least..but THAT sort of crazy thought encapsulates a few things VERY WRONG WITH MEMPHIS TN INT THE FIRST PLACE.
Clearly I am no sycophant.
You may be one of these reaaal smart people that actually believe that everyone in Memphis must think, and behave like someone else wants them too.
You’re weak, son. You’re the one who’s insulting me, engaging in crybaby histrionics b/c not everyone agrees 100% with your opinions and assessments, instead of rationally disagreeing. Any time anyone diagrees with you, your default response is that they are being “typical Memphis?” You understood my analogy, and obviously it made sense bc/ of your weak denial. And Packrodent? Please. Am I now to begin making fun of your screen name too? I’ll pass. I actually agree with many of your opinions, but your responses to anyone who even so much as hints at a divergence of opinion with you indicate a very immature person. You must be great at parties, Shekel.
Public discourse is definitely justified on any topic that concerns the city, but seeing as this is a privately operated blog, the moderator has the right to remove any comment they wish. The argument that receiving public monetary support obligates them to operate said page as a public message board only holds water if said financial support is provided specifically to manage and operate such a website. Otherwise, it remains private. There is nothing any of us can do to prevent SCM from simply refusing to operate this site any longer, thus they can manage it and its content as they see fit.
If this does not set well with any author, I am sure they are both free and able to operate and maintain their own blog.
my expereince is that even moderators can be embued, completely biased and self-serving as well, and just because they can delete a poster’s message, doesn’t mean that the poster violated the rules or has acted in any improper way. If the operator of this site thinks that tailoring feedback (reasonable feedback) or deleting comments that the operator just doesn’t like, their own credibility is damaged in doing so. If comments are truly outrageous, obscene or the like, then I would understand deleting them. Hiding behind the fact that this blog is private is not news because most blogs are private in the first place, right ? Having a blog where everyone is of one mindset or opinion seems counterproductive in a free thinking market in my book, but some people are easily offended by those who may challenge conventional thought, wisdom or purpose I guess. Small thinkers tend to get their feathers ruffled and sometimes go into an attack mode, which is quite silly.
what’s shakin’ shekel?
In that case I believe that you and Shekel are birds of a feather as they say.
Beautifully said, Melissa! We love what you have done for the Memphis food scene.