Noticing and Appreciating
A bowl of radishes
Last week my friend Regine posted a picture of a small bowl of radishes.
“It took years to get this crop this week,” she wrote.
I buy my mushrooms from Tom and Wendy - the couple that grows them. It changes my relationship to the food. A couple of weeks ago I emailed them with an order to pick up that weekend at the market and Wendy emailed back to let me know the price had gone up 25 cents per pound. She hoped that would be ok.
Of course it was.
There’s something about buying food from the people that grow and care for it.
Unfortunately, it’s led me to signing up for multiple CSAs this year.
Fortunately, I had the most amazing asparagus this week and hope that there’s more coming next week.
Any way, I wrote to Regine, “They look great.”
“Thanks,” she wrote back, “I’m uncommonly proud of what we both did (Kiddo and I).”
And then she wrote a short sentence that landed with me.
“It’s a small big thing.”
Small things that seem big
Mostly when we think of small things it’s because they demand our attention.
You get something stuck between your teeth and work at it with your tongue for hours until you either work it free or can excuse yourself and use dental floss.
It’s this tiny thing that you just couldn’t ignore.
It’s the sliver in your finger.
It’s the pebble in your shoe.
Those aren’t the small big things that Regine is talking about.
She’s talking about the small things we forget to notice.
Taken for granted
Two weeks ago, I was supposed to record a video with my friend James.
That morning we got an odd May sleet storm and you could see the trees struggle with the additional weight being captured by their young leaves.
Sure enough, we lost power. No electricity.
I texted James to let him know that we might be delayed.
Fortunately, the power came back on in an hour and we were able to record.
But it made me think, how often do I come down stairs in the morning and flip on the light and not think twice that I do have electricity.
I then let the dog out and turn on the tap and pour a glass of water not thinking how fortunate I am to have instant access to clean, drinkable water.
Would it be silly to spend my life grateful for these things?
I don’t know.
But it’s kind of a big deal that I am fortunate to have the power and water that I need. It’s not a given.
A bowl of radishes
I don’t grow my own radishes so I don’t know all that goes into it.
Kim used to grow some vegetables.
We used to enjoy the best summer tomatoes - when she was quick enough.
She would plant the tomatoes and use some sort of framework to surround and support them as they grew.
She’d come out in the evening after the sun started to disappear and water them.
And then she’d watch for tomatoes that were ripe enough.
Annabelle, our dog, would watch too.
Kim would see a tomato that wasn’t quite ready yet and give it another day. That next night she’d walk over to pick it and Annabelle would trot ahead of her and grab the perfectly ripe one in her mouth and run to the other end of our yard to eat it.
I knew what went into the tomatoes we got to eat.
I’ve been reading Samin Nosrat’s great book “Salt Fat Acid Heat.”
After a lifetime of cooking, a week with this book has made my food better.
Yesterday I reached into the refrigerator and took out a simple leek and potato soup that I’d made. I’d sauteed the leeks in butter, added vegetable stock and potatoes and cooked it until the potatoes were soft. I then pureed the soup and let it cool.
I put a cup of this soup in a bowl and tasted it.
It was good, but I mainly tasted the potatoes.
Samin says that I should add salt.
The point of salt is not that the food should taste salty but that the hidden flavors will be enhanced.
I added salt a little at a time and stirred with one spoon and tasted with another.
Soon I tasted the leeks. The potatoes were also a deeper note. The whole dish was starting to shine.
I then took out a bottle of olive oil. Olive oil is my current obsession - I’m buying and tasting different brands to see what they bring to the food.
I stirred in a little bit and tasted the soup again. A little more. The character and flavor of the soup changed but I couldn’t explicitly taste the salt of the olive oil - they were just there to help everything else work better together.
Samin told a story of being told to add vinegar to a dish. She thought the vinegar would ruin the dish but followed the instructions and found that you can use vinegar like salt so that it heightens a dish without you knowing it is there.
I added a bit of balsamic vinegar to the soup and it was just perfect.
Compared to the soup without the salt, oil, and vinegar - well, there was no comparison.
These elements are like the electricity and water in my life - I don’t notice when they are there but life isn’t the same when they are missing.
These are small big things.
I try to remember them and appreciate them.
I think we should try to be these things in the lives of people around us.
Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 61. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe