Meditations on Food

For the past few weeks, every time I have something to say in youth group, it seems to relate to food. I love food. Food is glorious. Every step in the process of preparing a meal is beautiful. Except maybe the dishes afterwards, but that’s because it does not relate directly to food.

But yes, musings on food. I’ve been living in apartments for the past year and a half, which means I no longer eat in the school cafeteria. Nor do I have my parents around to do the cooking. So I have learned to shop, organize, and cook. Perhaps not very well, but adequately. Every shopping trip is beautiful. Firstly, we go as a family – all 3 or 4 or 5 of us college girls (and sometimes boys). It’s awesome to just hang out with close friends.

The bill at the end of the trip is usually quite terrifying – how on earth do we spend so very much?? But it’s also comforting. Every item on that bill, every item filling our overflowing shopping cart, is good. Our shopping cart is overflowing with goodness: fresh vegetables of a great variety, good meat, fruits (the special treat we give ourselves every shopping trip), sometimes we get salmon for the evening (my favorite meal), lots of milk and lots of eggs, bread. The least healthy item on the list is usually cold cereal, or crackers. Sometimes peanut butter, when we run out. At the end of the shopping trip, when we are loading the trunk of the car with all the goodies, we can’t help but feel a little proud of ourselves: look at us, we’re all grown up!

It’s beautiful. Yes, the bill is a little high (we are stocking up for two weeks, at least). But it is such a wonderful blessing! In this time, this place, God has provided that we are together – it is so beautiful to be able to live with such very close friends. In this time, and this place, God has provided us the money to buy good food. Good food isn’t cheap, and we are provided with such an overflowing abundance of it! We eat well. We dine like kings. Good, solid food is such a great, great blessing. And we are blessed to be reminded of it every other week, on our glorious shopping trips, where we chart out a beautiful future (of two weeks) filled with good food our God has filled this earth with.

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And then there’s the fellowship. Not just the 3 or 4 of us who happen to live together (or practically live together). Once or twice a week, we have friends show up, inviting themselves over for dinner. Our doors are always open, and I do usually try to feed you if you walk through around dinner time… though sometimes I let laziness take over… We’re rather proud of the fact that our door is always open, and that friends know they are always, always welcome. That is not to say I will entertain you with the best of my hostess abilities. Most of us are introverts, so while friends showing up randomly throughout the day might mean a loud, rowdy hour of good fun, it more often means an afternoon at our respective computers or books, doing our respective school work, collectively, in one shared space, which is just as beautiful.

Ah, but I was ranting about food. Once or twice a week, we have friends over for dinner. If I happen to cook, I may be cooking for as few as 3 people (the normal day), to as many as 17 people. (I think 17 is the record this semester. Last semester we made it to 21.) But food facilitates the best fellowship. I am excited about graduating from college, moving out, having my own apartment, and inviting people over. I am an introvert, so I do not necessarily know how to entertain people. My idea of entertainment is to feed people. I like feeding people. It is immensely satisfying feeding people. It is beautiful to be sprawled out across the apartment with a dozen friends, just eating and chatting. Food is the universal method of fellowship. It can be anything from a sandwiched shared on the lawn, to a lavish wedding banquet. In my house it will generally be rice, stir-fry, and pumpkin pies when in season.

When I can’t think up an excuse to hang out with friends (with the hectic schedules of college life, one almost does need an actual excuse to hang out), I invite them for dinner. No one turns down free food at college. Dinner always succeeds in summoning my loved ones from all corners of the campus, and we have a beautiful time together, eating the good food God has so graciously provided for us.

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Snow

I simply wanted to note that it is snowing. It is lovely, fluffy snow, dusting the quiet campus grounds with another layer of fine sugar, healing the dirty scars of older snow. Naked tree branches are dark against the gray skies, and beautifully highlighted by a layer of bright new snow.

It’s been snowing a fair amount the past few weeks. My first class on many days is Russian Literature, and the best part of the day is perhaps trekking across campus in the dusky indigo of pre-dawn, the snow alighted softly on my coat, shoulder, hair, the winds kissing my cheeks with their icy lips, my fingers freezing delightfully as they stubbornly remain out in the open, protecting my lovely mug of hot tea from the wintry temperaments of the Midwestern plains. Oh, how vast the sky is!

Stars are fading as I settle on the comfortable coaches of the English building, beside great two-story window of the lobby. The indigo has paled into a softer blue as I open Pushkin’s delightful poems. I look out over gentle lolling hills of the far side of the campus, the gray trees marking their boundaries, and wonder at the vastness of the plains. I am facing east, and the pinks and golds hug the highest crest of the gentlest hill in the world, dressed as the glories of the gentle muses, heralding the shy but splendid morning sun.

Oh, God is so good!

NaNoWriMo

I was in bed Wednesday night, waiting to fall asleep. As I was getting drowsy, I suddenly remembered that the next day was November 1. November. Wasn’t that NaNoWriMo? I’ve had several friends participate in the national novel writing month, in which one attempts to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I never did it. November is a busy month for students. Maybe I’d do it some summer. Or some other year. When, you know, life slows down enough for an ambitious 50,000 word project.

But if I’ve learned one thing in 2 1/2 years of college, it’s that life has a nasty habit of not slowing down. In fact, when you most need a break, it tends to speed up and rush headlong into deadlines you are completely unready for.

And there’s that senior thesis thing that will swollow me whole next year.

So, why not now? If I don’t try it now, I’d never get along to trying it.

And so, welcome to November! And bring on those 50,000 words!

Bus conversations

I met a Mexican while waiting for the bus one day. Said his name was José. He told me that he had been here in the States for five years, and hated the snow.

We got to talking, seeing as the bus was still a while in coming. He had just finished working at this bar just down the street. It was a good place, he told me, and they served good beer. But of course, I was not of drinking age yet.

So was he on his way home? If only. He was catching the bus to get to his next job, a chef at this mediterranean restaurant. They served very good food. Shells, fish, lobsters. The shells were done with a handful of one spice and a handful of another. And woosh – the flames!

So he enjoyed cooking? Oh yes, he really did. And the people at work were really nice. He loved his job, and his face lit up when talking about it.

Do you have a facebook, he suddenly asked me. No, I didn’t. Well, as it turned out, neither did he. All his friends did, though. But he didn’t get it. Putting all your photos and things on the internet? It was something teenagers did.

We then exchanged ages – he was 23 now – and I proceeded shyly to pry into his background.

Being a college student, I lived on campus with a wonderful roommate. He lived on XXth with his youngest brother. It was boring in the apartment, because there was nothing to do. All he could do was stare out the window all day. But I said that I was a college student?

Yes, studying history.

He’d never been to school before, but he would like to go someday. Did I party a lot?

No, I smiled. My excuse was that we didn’t have a car, but the fact was that I wasn’t much of a partying girl.

But what did I do in my spare time? Was I not bored?

Oh no. I read books. Lots of them. I wondered absent-mindedly if he knew how wonderful books could be. I know few of my friends did.

He then told me that there were a lot of Asians on XXth. Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, etc. I made a mental note of that, for I knew a Vietnamese friend who was starved for compatriots.

So, did he have any other family in America?

One other brother who didn’t share the apartment. His parents were still in Mexico. He also had a girlfriend, but when he went back 2 years ago, she was married to another man.

Five years away from his family and friends. It was such a long time. Will he eventually go back?

Yes, of course! He went back for a visit 2 years ago, and he will probably be going back in a year or two. This time for good. He’ll drive a car to get back. It’d be like a road trip.

I smiled. I had always wanted to go on a road trip. And it made me glad that he will be going home sometime. Maybe even next December.

We lapsed into a comfortable silence for a while. THen I asked what he missed most about Mexico.

His parents, he replied without hesitation. Then after a pause, he added his girlfriend to the list.

I’m so sorry, I whispered, offering shallow condolences. How does one offer comfort about something like that?

Then I asked my most foolish question. Why did he come to America?

To earn money.

Of course. Why else would anyone come to the land of opportunities?

You see, he told me, a thousand dollars here is twelve thousand dollars back home. That’s a lot. In fact, he already owns a house back in Mexico. He went on to tell me that Americans don’t have houses. They say they do, but you see, they don’t actually own them, because they still owe a whole lot of mortgage and credit and stuff. But he had a house. A real one. And he didn’t owe anyone anything.

He grinned in pride as he happily contemplated the thought of having a house to go back to in 2 years, and I shared in his joy of the moment.

So, did he have any plans when he got back?

No, not really. He was thinking about going to school. He’d never been to school before, and he kind of wanted to go.

Then the bus came. We boarded, and spent the trip in silence. He got off at East F. and XXth. I watched him jog toward the mediterranean restaurant, and wondered if he was late.