Chomping exuberantly on a dark green gnarl of gum in a most un-ladylike manner I feel utter satisfaction not to mention resurgent crackling joy. On any other day this behavior would ratchet down a notch or two, but tonight I am back from afar. If there has been one thing, a beacon in the night, a touch stone against my crooked palm which has steadfastly wedded me to self, it has been my unflagging appetite which sends me scuttling about in divergent directions. For the past two unbearably long and strange weeks I have been marooned, dried up and just about unknown amidst a white out sea of nausea, antibiotics and a just won’t quit humorless apathy for sustenance.
The sort who breezes through moment after another considering, anticipating, and adoring food in its glorious guises, I can scarcely remember time or space without the accompaniment of something refreshing to quaff or delicious to nibble upon. Whether located at an all you can eat buffet, atop an airplane, slopped out of battered cafeteria pans, or squeezed out of tubes or stuffy boxes; when food is involved I am happy to gaze and converse, but mostly downrightly devour the subject at hand.
So confusion and disbelief hit hard when I found my teeth clamped shut at the mere thought of any vegetable which would normally solicit feelings of warm affection. The strangeness of it all set off a ricocheting earworm which had SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Starfish gleefully shouting in tandem, “It’s Opposite Day!” every time I settled upon some unusual food choice. It was as if the salt laden overly processed food loving taste buds of a teenage kid got swapped with mine along with his kidney- I swear I became another. In between negotiating quease, the only things remotely appealing were packaged hotdogs, mac-n-cheese, toast, bananas, and canned soup. In opposite land I reverted to eyeballing soda and Doritos, doughnuts and Ho-ho’s, rejecting anything green or fiber rich all the while staring numbly into space.
In the end it wasn’t really significant what was eaten as odd and noteworthy as it was, but rather to notice there was such a startling absence of joy in this strategic eating to survive. The whole treading slowly to nowhere had me thinking about the push and pull of hunger which is sewn into the fabric of our being. An appetite is intuitive utterance from within urging us outward towards new worlds whether physical, mental, emotional, or even spiritual. Every call and response broadens and amplifies our circle of being as we return each time another part of us discovered. Eating is a response to some original desire, conscious or not. While it stands to reason that the absence of desire is equally appropriate for certain moments, I found it to be lonely territory nonetheless. In that space rather than stillness or restorative rest-I found myself squeezed inward and disjointed, cut off from the vibrancy and color of both inner and outer worlds. To think that too long, pinched off of the vine of life, we would succumb to unripe death. I cannot think of more rousing reason to dig deep into our souls and enjoy all shapes and sizes of our hunger, to discover and be fed over and over again. Shchi: Serves 6 Adapted from SoupSongs
Sauerkraut is almost always a palate pleaser and just the thing to get my appetite rolling. Don’t let the fear of stodgy cabbage fool you. This is light, pretty and delicious. A Russian version of sauerkraut soup, this is considered humble fare and really gussied elaboration upon cabbage, salt and water. If pickled kraut, V-8, or borscht is your thing forge ahead. Serve with pumpernickel bread and butter.
2 Tblsp. butter
2 cups of sauerkraut rinsed and drained
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 Tblsp. tomato paste
2 Tblsp. butter
½ onion diced
1 garlic clove chopped
10 dried porcini mushrooms rehydrated in boiling water, chopped fine
1 small turnip peeled and diced
1 beet peeled and diced
1 16 oz. diced tomato
10 -12 C of beef stock (could use miso paste & stone ground mustard to create a “meaty” vegetarian broth)
Salt and pepper
Pinch of hot pepper flakes
Pinch of dill
Directions: Sauté in a Dutch oven over medium high flame, butter, shredded cabbage and sauerkraut for about 15 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and a cup or so of broth and continue to simmer on low for another 40 minutes. Meanwhile in a separate skillet, fry up the remaining butter, onion, garlic, chopped mushroom, turnip, and beet for about 15 minutes. Add the sautéed vegetables to the Dutch oven, the remaining tomato, stock, and spices. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer for another 20 minutes or so. Check for seasoning. Ideally allow the soup to sit for a day before reheating. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and more dill.