There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.-- Wendell Berry
I have a friend whom I love and I have only met her once. We met online when she commented on Big Harmony. We exchanged some pleasantries and thus started a modern epistolary friendship (facebook, email, comments on blogs) much akin to the one between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, excepting for the fact that I am not very fond of cooking.
The aforementioned quote resides on the margins of her blog. When I visit her site, I always smile when I read its message but have failed to actually approach it, pick it up, turn it around. I think this is why my efforts normally fall flat in the kitchen. I don't pay attention. I don't notice when I'm missing an ingredient until it's too late and then I just have to make do with a substitute. Or, I add too much of an ingredient, and when I realize my mistake...it has already incorporated into the greater whole. The dish is never quite spoiled but it's never quite memorable, either.
I remember a few meals in my life that were a "religious" experience, perhaps even sacred. The chef, the restaurant owner, the servers all combined their love of and dedication to food to create an atmosphere of, well, profound love for others. I loved the careful combination of flavors. I loved being surprised by the chef's creativity. I felt welcomed and appreciated by those serving us. Humbled but lifted high at the same time, for me to share this friendly contradiction while in the company of people who really know me (and still love me) made for a transcendent experience.
During this time of Advent, this time of "coming towards", I am embarrassed to say that, in my life, I create few of these experiences for others. I seem to be coming towards nothing in particular except my own pleasure and comfort.
The cold, hard, dark truth is that this inclination permeates, violates, desacrilizes absolutely everything in my world. Here I am, awash in a world expressly created to be full of meaning, relationship and joy, and I can't be bothered to recognize it unless it brings me comfort and joy.
Damn. No wonder I no longer look forward to Christmas. With all the missing elements and substandard substitutions, I've let my inattention become the main ingredient in my life. With few exceptions, I have made almost every aspect of it incredibly unspecial, unnoticeable, blah.
Perhaps I need to stop wondering when my own personal Joy of Cooking will arrive or where the joy of Christmas went. Noticing, nurturing, serving--combined in unexpected ways, this is the food for the soul I've been craving in a world where everthing tastes so bland, so joyless.