"There, then, is the role of the amateur: to look the world back to grace. There, too, is the necessity of his work: His tribe must be in short supply; his job has gone begging. The world looks as if it has been left in the custody of a pack of trolls. Indeed, the whole distinction between art and trash, between food and garbage, depends on the presence or absence of the loving eye. Turn a statue over to a boor, and his boredom will break it to bits -- witness the ruined monuments of antiquity. On the other hand, turn a shack over to a lover; for all its poverty, its lights and shadows warm a little, and its numbed surfaces prickle with feeling." (Robert Farrar Capon)
All too often, I forget that in order to write, I need to read. In order to create, I need to seek inspiration. At the heart of this, of course, is my and yours and all-of-our desperate need for one another. We are inescapably interconnected. I do not exist in a vacuum, I do nothing in a vacuum. All that I do, all that I am, is, in some way, influenced and determined by something you or the stranger beside me on a bench or the child in Romania has done or said or been.
A few weeks ago, my lovely friend, Anne, pushed a book into my hands. The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon. She had been telling me about it for some time. When she gave it to me, I added it to the forever growing to-read stack. I have a tendency to save the best things for last, a practice that is not as much an indication of my patience as it is my fear and restlessness. So, the book lay quiet until last night, when I picked it up and gasped at Capon's frank simplicity, whimpered at his brisk commentary on the existence of our earth.
The loving eye, that which bestows qualities of beauty and grace, simply because it recognizes that which is already present.
It is as if we have all been wandering around in a desert, and have stumbled upon an endless supply of water. We only have one or two vessels with which to drink, though. Some of us resort to using our hands, or plunging our heads into the water. Others, however, pass the vessel around, sharing the water. Those people, I think, experience more deeply the life-sustaining act of drinking, because they observe others as they drink and are observed themselves.
I have recently been thinking about honesty and dishonesty. What is it that makes dishonesty, the act of telling a lie, immoral? I have always had the impression that lying was harmful primarily to the person to whom the lie is being told. I wonder, though, if dishonesty is mostly immoral because it harms the liar. The act effectively cuts the liar off from the other person, it prevents her from being known and from being loved with pure truth.
What is it about vulnerability that frightens us so? Why are we so afraid of participating truthfully in living and in being in relationship?
I have been turning this Capon quote over and over in my mind. What is it that makes some people "lovers" and others "boors"? I suspect that, on some level, it is the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of sharing, the fear of acknowledging and embracing one's interdependence on the people and elements that make up this ramshackle world of ours.
I desperately want to be a lover, desperately want to look the world back to grace. But, I am entirely dependent on you and your eyes. We must help each other see. Help me see art in the trash, help me see food in the garbage. And when I catch a glimmer of beauty in the overgrown, rundown, creaky old planet, I will stand beside you and point so that you can see it too.
Caramelized Fennel, Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Quesadillas
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 bulb fennel (thinly sliced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 Large sweet potato (cooked and mashed)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne (more or less to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon course salt (more or less to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (more or less to taste)
- 1 teaspoon agave
- 1/2 bunch lacinato kale (coarsely chopped)
- 4oz goat cheese
- 8-10 corn tortillas
- butter for spreading on tortillas (or vegan alternative such as Earth Balance)
1. There are two ways to cook the sweet potato. If you have time, you can poke holes in it with a fork and bake it at 400 degrees for 45 - 50 minutes, until soft. Allow to cool and scoop out the sweet potato from its skin. OR, you can, peel the sweet potato, cube, and cook in boiling water for about 10 minutes, until the sweet potato is soft. Drain, allow to cool a bit, and mash together with cayenne, paprika, agave, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in frying pan or cast iron skillet. Add fennel. Over medium-low heat, cook the fennel for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until it is golden brown. In the last 3 minutes of cooking, add minced garlic. Set aside.
3. Because, unlike cheese typically used for quesadillas, goat cheese will not act as a binding agent, you will want to prepare the top tortilla before warming the bottom. Butter one side of a tortilla and heat for 30 seconds in a hot skillet, until browned and slightly crisp. Set aside.
4. Butter one side of the tortilla serving as the base of the quesadilla. Place in hot pan, and spread sweet potatoes on it. Layer on fennel, kale, and goat cheese. Allow to heat for 2-3 minutes.
5. Top with previously heated tortilla. If your pan is not large enough to make all of your quesadillas at once, place prepared quesadillas on an oven-safe plate and warm at 200 degrees or so until you are ready to serve.