mercredi, février 16, 2005

meals, food, just rambling thoughts....

So, I was reflecting on my life and how I used to host people over for these huge dinners and it would be tremendous fun,e specially because I had this policy that meals don't come for free.. and so people had to tell me something torah-related to be excused from the table at the end of the meal...that often made for some funny commentary. One fellow once was so caught on the spot he made up things and blatantly so.. but it was still fun.. of course, that meal was primarily all people who didn't know all this stuff and so to accomodate that, in the end I asked them for a story about how something interesting happened in their lives or what they were thankful for and then concluded by reading a lesson from Nechama Leibowitz's book of shiurim/gilyonot.

I remembered too when in my first year here I made a lot of meals at my place for people in my department, there I would often do a lot of things to chat with them and get to know them.. food is to CHinese people such a binding thing.. it helps to smooth over the world and life... even so it's a suggestion of who you are and a concrete way to express love and caring.

True to my culture, I recalled plenty of meals where my aunts would try to outdo one another.. I recall these incredible meals that we would make under my mother's tutelage.. the incredible eggplants stufed "sandwiches" for dim sum, the phenomenal lotus seed paste buns I would make, and the coconut custards we'd make in those tiny pie crusts, I remember making these awesome riceballs which were fried up... at the Cetner for Jewish Life at Princeton, we'd call that.. "made with luv" luv, being out euphemism for a lot of oil... Joy's way of letting us know she cared and wanted to give us "Jewish soul food". There wre fantastic meals that were made of incredible foods, which I'm painfully aware and sad that I don't get anymore, lately being sad a lot and hurt a lot I've got this nagging inner feeling tat I want to be eating those foods again. I'll have to make time to make those foods and to "feed myself" like that again. Somehow a part of me thinks that learning to do that kind of self-nurturing in a very self-aware way.. would be beauty.

It'll be great to do and fun.. but lonely to be the only one there... inthe kitchen. Somehow to a HCinese person, the idea of food, conjures up massive numbers of people... people filling the house and the ktichen... helping, tasting and joking around... There are times when I prefer to be alone and to think I will never marry and I will always be separate. I think that way of life while lonely is the more productive and more efficient way of life.. it's cleaner, neater, and more streamlined... but I was built up with a culture of food, love, and large groups of people. I think little else could make me happy.

Chinese-American culture is all about loving and nurturing other people. So little of what makes an Asian-merican woman tick is her outward success. So much of it is really her inner nurturing soul.. her ability to make the world beautiful, to help other people to grow, to right social wrongs, and I wonder how it is that in Chinese-american culture we breed women like this so easily. The world would be a better place if more people were like Chinese-American women, hah... well, maybe.. . Chinese-American women are passionate and deeply idealistic -which is the root of the do-gooder soul. Oddly, I think it is taught to us through the culture. I get upset when people think of religion as religion and not as a way of life.. why? because take Buddhism. Few people realize that Buddhists have dietary restrictions, much like kosher-keeping Jews. Few people realize that religion is a means of self-discipline and not necessarily just a dogma to rotely follow. Only in Christianity, which I find very very empty, is there this silliness of just following the dogma and not having a rich psychological and deeply self-refining discipline. I know next to nothing of Islam, so I cna't speak for them,,b ut Iknow in Judaism and Cuddhism that these tow religions as they're called.. have such a deep committment to the growth of the individual. I find it highly unsatisfactory when people think it's some kind of stupid panacea for fears or pain. The acestic rigors of a Buddhist lifestyle, pushing oneself to his or her limit and trying to marshal one's mind into an acute self-awareness and an acute awareness of the world around one. This is however not so different from Judaism.. particularly if you read mussar stuff.

so I am intrigued.

People who are as several of my friends are... those who believe that people are animals, just highly evolved without animus/soul and without a God --what one concieves of as the nature of God, etc. will be left to another debate...-- how do those people refine themselves? How do they achieve self-awareness without having any framework? I see plenty of relgious folk who have a framework, don't utilise it and end up in this bin of not knowing why or how or what they are doing here...

me... I have a short vignette that spoke to my inner core deeply and I knew when it hit me deeply that this was true for my own self... (now I can hardly retell it well, so you'll have to find it on your own at some point to get the full impact, but) it went something like this:

One dark, rainy day, I saw a homeless little girl on the street corner, without adequate clothing or food, and inwardly raging, I asked God, "Why do you not do anything about this?!"
Later that night, in my mind, I heard a response, "I did do something about it. I made you."

I remember when I heard that story that I wept inside my heart and realized that this story applied to me, too. Perhaps because my background made me particularly sensitive to humanity and to social injustice, I knew that no matter what or where I was, that all my life I would want to be helping people on an emotional and personal level to find their way out of the cdarkness and out of the uncaring cold. Every human deserves love and respect. It is probably the number one rule of my very inner being. God is nothing without people taking care of each other. Religion is useless if we only fret about rules and where someone else is or where we are in contrast to that other person. At our very core... we creatures of the world are at our best when we love and we share that love. And that... is what food is to a Chinese-American woman... an expression of love.