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May 27
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Kitchen Wisdom Begins Outdoors

RhubarbColumn: Kitchen Wisdom

In an effort to share the wisdom that many of us experience in our daily lives, meals, and our own kitchens, this column will be including voices from around the sangha, Please continue to join us as we expand our view and hear the many voices of Kitchen Wisdom.

article and photos by Shambhala Times Columnist
Lisa Harris

Spring is revealing itself – as the leaves unfurl, as the blossoms open and fade, in the anxious cries of mother birds looking for their fledglings off the nest.

Spring is also alive and unfurling itself in the woods and fields, at the market and in our kitchens. The waves of the season pass along garlicky wild leeks and the first dandelion greens and flowers in the yard. Next come the wild mushrooms, asparagus, and rhubarb. Halibut shows up at fish markets this time of year, along with the Copper River Salmon.

I find myself gazing lovingly at the fresh foods of spring. They sometimes seem surreal in their vivid colors and textures, vibrant and strong, compared to the recent greyness of winter. And I often remind myself that the farmer’s market isn’t a museum. It’s an interactive and tangible place that is inviting me to pick and choose, and take home some of the resilience of the season.

asparagusIt also is fleeting…the fruit of the plants show themselves boldly, then quietly disappear into the next wave. Asparagus only lasts for a moment in time. Rhubarb tries to accelerate it’s exit by sending up numerous flowers on their stalks. Wild mushrooms seem to be the most elusive of them all. Some years they push up through the leaves in abundance in the woods, other years they never appear.

There are times when I buy the freshest spring peas and wrinkly spinach, green and vivid and so alive – and I just watch them wilt and die on the counter or in the refrigerator, because I can’t quite decide how best to prepare them. I’m almost afraid of eating them, because I know they won’t be here forever, and I hate to see them go.

wild leeksOnce it all begins, I also find myself anticipating the next edible leaves, and the next fruits, and the next seed pods. Again, a perfect time to just be in each moment. Fully experience the heady scent of the first sprigs of thyme, musky earthy mushrooms, the pungent aroma of wild leeks. Feel the crisp and crunch of lightly cooked tender asparagus. Know that these are all markers of the spring thaw, how much sun lights our day, the result of a long winter nap.

The kitchen is a magical place. The Sakyong holds the kitchen in high regard in relation to the household. The beautiful thing about food is that not only do we have the kitchen space to learn how to be in the world, but those places where the food comes from can also teach us how to be in the world. Beauty, impermanence, energy, life, mindfulness and waking up are all possible to witness and experience as the world moves through the seasons that are marked with successive harvests.

Lisa Harris is a free-range chef, freelance writer, and consultant. She is always on the lookout for seasonal, local foods, and the farmers who provide them in Northern Indiana, where she currently lives, and wherever she travels. You can find more of her experiences and stories in her blog, earthskybelly.wordpress.com and other food related publications. She can be reached at [email protected].

To read other entries in this column, please see: Kitchen Wisdom.

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