Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Give thanks there was rain

So on Thanksgiving I volunteered at the Bay Area Rescue Mission, which is something I really enjoy doing. I learn something new about cooking every time I go, I see how a cafeteria works, and I get to be on my feet and get my hands dirty for an hour or two. It's great. I also get to meet some cool people whom I otherwise probably would never have encountered if I hadn't worked there. Take Jermaine, who in the space of six months has gone from a place in his life where he asked, "Did any of your friends ever have a laptop stolen? That might have been me," to a place in life where he declared, "You have to love Jesus more than you love your Mom, because Jesus will always be there for you." Clearly, Jermaine's Mom is not as cool as Sam's Mom. Anyway, neither of these statements represents a demographic that I frequently encounter in Berkeley.

I was looking around on the mission website to figure out what time I should come in and volunteer and I found this article about Tim, the chef who runs the kitchen at the Mission, whom I see every few weeks or so and who is really cool and down-to-earth. It's a great story whether or not all the God stuff resonates with you--leaving Chez Panisse and Bouchon to dedicate himself full-time to this program, feeding the needy and helping people at the lowest point in their lives put themselves through cooking school and picking up a new trade. Still, I think my favorite part is about how he grew up on "the wrong side of the tracks" in Napa but got interested in food and restaurants because he was brought up recognizing the value of having a garden and cooking his own meals.

And it got me thinking about articles like this one, where a professional food columnist argues that, say, roasting a chicken is way too difficult and time-consuming for the average American to execute on a weeknight, and that working families should resign themselves to things like quesadillas and omelets. Let me just say that a week or two ago I made some quesadillas for Jeff after drinking exactly the right number of beers at The Trappist and singing "Because the Night" at a lesbian karaoke bar--and seriously, if drunk quesadillas are the standard to which I must aspire when I start a family, then I never want to start a family.

Seriously, all these people who say that Michelle Obama is dumb when she says you should garden, nobody has time to garden, nobody has time to cook anything of substance, people are too busy, chickens are unrealistic, vegetables are for rich people--well, look at people like Tim who grew up without very much at all but learned the value of home cooking and nutrition and picking swiss chard. Seriously, has anyone who has written an article complaining about the drudgery of gardening actually tried to garden? You put a tomato plant in the ground and water it every other morning or something. Four months later you have a million tomatoes. What is so hard about this?

Anyway, I guess I'm thankful for learning a lot about food at a young age, and then picking the dorm at MIT that had all the kitchens, and then moving somewhere (by accident) that is kind of all about food. Also for Sam's Mom, who probably loves me even more than Jesus does, no matter what Jermaine says. Also for the awesome smoked turkey that Tim made and a breast of which my friend Odale gave me to take home after Thanksgiving.

Less proselytizing and more food porn tomorrow!

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