Last summer, all seven of us gathered for Paella, authentically prepared. At one point, I stood at the kitchen island poised with the knife to cut carrots for the salad. I held the carrot in my hand, taking in the beauty of its bright green top, just beginning to wilt. It was a beautiful carrot, deeper in color than most, and small, spanning just my palm. But its leafy top held me spellbound, the wholeness of it, the rightness. This is the part that grew above the surface of the ground, I thought. This is the part that first peeked from the soil to test the nature of this world of ours, and withstood its elements. This is the part that swayed with the breeze and caught the warm sun. It captured what was carried on the air from miles around, and sent its findings downward below the surface, into the tender unfolding of this food.
As I sliced the top away from the carrot that day, to the background of voices I love, it occurred to me why I find our gatherings so nourishing. We only bring our whole selves at these times. We do not bring truncated versions—versions chopped, compartmentalized for ease of packaging or consumption. We do not bring only the parts we take to the grocery store or the post office, or even our jobs. No, we bring the parts of us that grow above the surface of the soil as well as those generally more hidden, and it is with this wholeness of our beings that we greet these meals, lovingly prepared, and from which we are able to derive such unique pleasure.
As we sit around this lovely table, the small talk spent and the fruits of our labor beautifully beckoning, the spade sinks down and we are slowly unearthed, open, blinking in the bright daylight, grateful to be seen and heard and gently held by one another again, leafy tops and all.
~Cassandra Leu is a writer living in Santa Rosa, California