I have to say that I’ve never bawled my eyes out over a jar of Preggo. But in my kitchen on Saturday, I looked down at a big pot of simmering spaghetti sauce and things started getting blurry. Yep. This is that kind of blog.
The beginning of this emotionally draining sauce was a sizzling pound (or two—hey, don’t judge, I wanted to be sure to taste it) of salt-pepper-sage sausage from our heritage hogs that had returned home from the butcher that morning. I skipped the part where you are supposed to drain the fat, instead adding spices that were dried from our garden. One by one I popped open jars of whole, crushed and sauced tomatoes that we had grown from seed and canned all September long.
Mason jars are little portals for time travel, in case you didn’t know, and I cannot open one without finding myself up at 5 a.m. and it’s July and I am pulling weeds. Open the next one and it’s winter of last year, and I’m perched on a plastic chair with a spray bottle, watering my little tomato seedlings on top of the deep freezer in the only way that would not disturb their tender sprouts.
And, of course, I can’t fry any type of protein without feeling the weight of two 5-gallon buckets filled with water, splashing on my legs as I take them out to thirsty pigs. The work of the meal follows me to the plate.
Dear Lord. Maybe I should have laid down for a nap instead of crying, but I didn’t.
I don’t know why I got emotional. I think it was because at that moment I remembered that the grocery store sells spaghetti sauce with sausage, and that I could have saved myself a lot of work and time. I’m kidding, of course. I think I realized, a little too suddenly, how much I miss while eating on the run. Buzzing drive-throughs on the way home from errands, or tearing open a can of some bizarrely shelf-stable product to reheat in the few hours before I had to commute back to Columbus again.
But whatever I was doing on Saturday – it felt like more than cooking dinner. It was the culmination of time and Advil and I knew the story of every ingredient. And it was good. The best sauce I have ever tasted in my life. The chunks of yellow and orange tomatoes each had their own acidity, each developed from seed cultivated and saved for decades prior; likely from dozens of folks who weeded as the sun came up. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the first one to break ice with a hammer to water a herd of large, black, floppy-eared pigs. It felt like worshiping, honestly. Or visiting with ghosts.
Because in our toil we see God has created so many variations in nature, and therefore, in our daily bread, as they call it, and I mostly just glossed over all that until recently: tomatoes are different, even among the same variety, hogs vary with the seasons like milk, even basil changes tastes throughout the summer! And yet most of my adult life I’ve skipped over these fascinating hiccups in lieu of convenient meals out of season.
Apparently I had better ways to spend my time. Three times a day, every day. Consuming without regard to where it came from or who harvested or preserved it or why it tastes the way it does. It felt like I had been eating with strangers. It felt like cheating.
But on Saturday, I hadn’t cheated. I’d finished a full race. And I saw that it was good. And there was sausage.
The moral of the story is: Slow down. Quit your jobs. Be in a constant state of awe and wonder over the basic necessities of life. That way we can all stay home and cry over spaghetti sauce together. At least until they shut the electric off.
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