It All Starts in Your Kitchen
On his current American tour, His Holiness the Karmapa has been speaking at the most elite universities and high tech campuses, preaching his gospel of compassion: for each other, for all sentient beings and for the Earth our mother. Most recently, at Harvard, he called out apathy: "The most dangerous thing in the world is apathy... I urge you to feel a love that is courageous --not like a heavy burden, but a joyous acknowledgement of interdependence."
The great hotbed of apathy is of course the kitchen. Eating comes so naturally, so instinctively, we take it for granted and do it so obliviously, we are actually blind. Yet here is where we can change everything: our health, our attitude, our world, if only we up our awareness and focus on what we are really doing. Because the kitchen is ultimate living proof of interdependence. Carrots came from Afghanistan, potatoes from Peru and ketchup is a Cantonese sauce. What dairy farmer milked which cow to give you that carton of yogurt? Who scooped up the olives that made your oil? Who offloaded it at a U.S. port?
Just read this past week's headlines if you are clueless. Burmese workers kept as slaves in Indonesia's export fish industry. Mexicans denied even beds and toilets while harvesting all those cheap fruits and vegetables in your supermarket. One fifth of California's dangerously disappearing water supply still going to raise alfalfa to feed beef cattle for your burger. Amy's Kitchen, a supposedly organic processed food purveyor now owned by giant General Mills, recalled thousands of its products fearing listeria has contaminated them. And finally, scientists not on Monsanto's payroll link Roundup to cancer and fertility issues. Earlier an MIT scientist linked it to all the trouble people seem to be having with wheat gluten because the entire industrial US wheat crop is doused with Roundup two weeks before it is harvested, so you're getting a whopping dose of glysophate when you eat commercially baked bread.
Cheap. Convenient. Or Conscious. Compassionate. Everything we eat comes from somewhere starting with soil and solar energy, ending with human hands running on food fuel and combustion engines running on fuel that comes out of the Earth. That's why diet choices can change the world. We vote every time we toss something into our shopping cart or garbage can, every time we pay at the chosen checkout, every time we willingly go to a farmers' market and pay pennies more for honest, fair food, every time we decide to skip the beef and order polenta. Buying out of season imported fruits and fish just because you feel like having peaches in January is support for the most abominable slavery of others. Constantly eating meat supports ripping down the last forests, ripping out the oxygen supply and ripping up the great rivers.
We change the world every time we choose not to buy these things, to wait for tomatoes and blueberries until they are locally in season, to eat spaghetti with tomato sauce and roasted vegetables instead of steak, to buy in bulk instead of chemically toxic cans, to choose hearty lentil soup and grilled cheese sandwiches over chicken salad. We stop being apathetic and acquiesce to our convenience addiction when we make our own meals instead of letting some mega corporation feed us to its bottom line. It's about waking up to what's going on all around us instead of sleep walking through our meals. We just need to think altering our kitchen habits more worth our time than, say, watching Game of Thrones or calculating charts for March madness or visiting the mall again.
I recently met a middle aged couple trying to meet their daughter's challenge to live trash free. It's not that hard, they said, when you make the effort to think about what you're doing. They buy in bulk or fresh from a farm. They get milk in returnable glass bottles instead of waxed cartons and buy nothing in clamshell packaging. They were quite pleased with this accomplishment.
Of course I'd like to tell you I've got this down pat; His Holiness would be proud of me. But that's a ha ha, in my dreams. I am so the Kleenex queen that when I die, people are going to find half used tissues in every pocket and purse I own. Still, I have made efforts to change other things. I do not buy imported out of season produce, any imported or farmed fish. I am trying really hard not to generate any garbage from vegetables and fruits. I recycle vinegar and olive oil bottles by using them for homemade salad dressing.
I came from a family that had to have meat twice a day, but I don't eat much any more. I didn't go cold turkey. I just stopped eating slabs I have to "butcher at the table", as Asian people say of Americans, and stick to snippets that flavor a dish. I admit it's harder to think up a meal when I can't just "throw a burger on the fire" or eat a roast chicken for three days--and sometimes it's a pain, but thanks to the world's plethora of tasty traditions of vegetarian cooking, I'm somehow managing (pasta e fagioli, anyone?), and according to all the latest tests, my health is perfect.
His Holiness' idea of compassion is no meat eating, littering or environmental degradation. It's awareness over apathy, consciousness of where things come from and where they go and how we direct that traffic because, as he says, everything is interconnected. The kitchen is the best place to understand that.
~Sandy Garson "Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"
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