Sunday, October 17, 2010

Don't crowd the mushrooms

There's a line in Julie/Julia that finally made sense to me this morning: Don't crowd the mushrooms.

I wanted something fast and easy this morning for breakfast. Didn't have any eggs, but I did have some steak and mushrooms, so steak and mushrooms it was. With Don't crowd the mushrooms repeating in my head, I sliced mushrooms, added butter to the olive oil and dumped the mushrooms in. Instantly, the kitchen filled with the fragrance of earth and butter and the fruitiness of olive oil. I get the good stuff. I shook the pan and flipped the mushrooms only one layer deep in the pan and something magical began to happen: they browned. Browned mushrooms. usually they become lighter in color and silt and sweat, but they don't brown, not until this morning. Don't crowd the mushrooms. When the mushrooms were done, I dumped in the beef, searing it quickly in the mushroom liquor, butter and olive oil, shaking the pan and turning the meat over until the pink was gone from the surface (I like my meat medium rare), reveling in the aroma of grass fed beef marbled lightly with white fat and beginning to crisp in the hot pan and the residue of butter, olive oil and mushrooms. Talk about seductive and mouthwatering. I could hardly wait to eat.

The first bite was heaven. the browned mushrooms were earthy and wonderful and the meat tender and still a bit bloody on the inside, just the way I like it. The only thing missing was eggs, at least two of them. Every bite was a taste sensation of fresh ingredients and culinary perfection. I lingered over each bite, letting the succulent juices linger on my tongue, savoring each bite. I am sated, not just by food, but by the wonderful taste and the aroma of earthy, fruity, buttery mushrooms that makes me want to inhale deeply to keep the scent fresh in my mind and on my palate.

That's the thing about food. You can eat quickly and without fuss, getting a random taste of this or that ingredient, passively noting the taste of unexciting and ordinary food that nourishes and fuels the body, or you can eat slower and enjoy each mouthful before, during and after the meal is finished. There is something to be said for home cooked food, but what it really boils down to is simply well cooked food that makes use of the best ingredients by the best methods. You can eat to live or live to eat, and the latter is not really a bad thing. Eating to live is simply pumping in the fuel without regard for the ingredients or method of delivery. You could take vitamins and supplements and wolf down the food and it will still fill the engine and do the work it's meant to do. In living to eat, we absorb the nutrients and engage all the senses until food becomes a spiritual experience that connects us to the earth and the elements. I know, it sounds so airy-fairy; in a way, it is. That doesn't mean it's not right.

What got me thinking about the way I've been eating to live lately is an ad I came across for Rocky Mountain grass fed beef and lamb. I buy organic, grass fed meat, but I haven't given it much though or spent much time in preparing the food, except as fuel and not as a whole body-mind experience. No wonder I've been out of sorts and feeling a bit down lately. I have been fueling the engine, but completely forgot about fueling the mind and spirit. We are more than an intricate mechanical contrivance with sentience, we are an entity of mind, body and spirit and every part of us needs to be nourished, fed, nurtured and honored. I guess that is what is meant as the body being the temple, a temple that houses the intangibles that make us who we are: the spirit and the mind.

The more science uncovers, the further we get from being whole. We treat ourselves as though we can detail the outside and forget about the engine, the fuel, the electrical and computer systems and everything that makes the vehicle go. It's like having find leather seats and a state of the art CD/DVD player in a car that is rusted and has no tires with brake lines that are completely dry. Okay, that's a very simplistic analogy, but it makes a point.

Everything we do, everything we see and experience, is all part of what nourishes the whole being, the body, mind and spirit. I've been feeding myself, but not in a substantial way, not in a way that takes into account the whole being. Eating without engaging the senses, without feeding the mind and spirit, is eating to live, fueling a broken car or one that is nearly broken, falling into a deep rut that keeps getting deeper with every passing day that I ignore the rest of me, the intangibles that make me whole. I will never crowd the mushrooms again and I will definitely spend more time on living to eat. I already feel better. Think what days, weeks and months of living to eat will accomplish. I can hardly wait to find out. Time to get out the pots, pans and utensils. I'm going shopping.

That is all. Disperse.

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