Tag: Friendship

Baking Feelings Into Pies

There’s no wrong way to grieve.

At least, that’s what a therapist told me six years ago when my mom passed away.

Upon the death of my mom, I grieved by not grieving. I didn’t have the time for it. I kept myself busy and plunked along. Ironically, I was a church secretary who helped plan funerals. I never did take any time off from work after her death and even worked at a funeral just days after. When I first started this job, people would ask me if I was going to seminary. I always chuckled and answered, “no.”

“Never say never!” they’d respond.

I’d reply, “In six months, when you know me better, you will laugh at the fact that you ever said this.” Sometimes I did remind them and, indeed, they did laugh.

Funeral ministry is so important and I greatly respect people with hearts for working with those who grieve. I was not one of them. A large part of our congregation was aging and we sometimes planned two to three funerals in a single week. My role included receiving death calls, attending funeral planning meetings, ordering the funeral meal, printing bulletins, and preparing the sanctuary for the services. When my mom died, I discovered I was literally unable to sit with my own grief. How effectively could I sit with others?

In our day-to-day work lives, we talked about death all of the time and relied on humor to cope. My coworker and I loved to play pranks on the Sr. Pastor. We took his children’s sermon puppet hostage and held it for ransom. One winter, I transformed the display of Christmas dolls located in his office into a scene straight from a Tim Burton movie. The dolls had these red velvet smocks and removable foam heads with beady felt eyes. Nobody noticed the scene until he hosted a meeting in his office that included the Bishop.

The Sr. Pastor always responded to our pranks by saying, “I don’t get mad, I get even.” We always waited for him to retaliate and he never did. One year later, the church laid-off their little secretaries due to budget cuts and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

It wasn’t until three years after I left this job that I could bring myself to visit my mother’s resting place at the mausoleum. I forgot to bring flowers so I left sprigs of asparagus from the farmers market, instead. They were all I had and I’m sure whoever found them was confused.

asparagus

I know there are many stages of grief, but I don’t remember exactly what they are. Until Amy’s memorial service, I wallowed in disbelief. I felt too sad to write and wrestled with a great deal of anger. Last week, I may have cursed at everyone driving along 4th Street SW. I wanted to shout fury at everyone who tailgated my vehicle and dismissed them with waves of my hand. I yearned to have words with one of our local news companies (still do) and had to shake my head when I found myself seething over a disappointing rotisserie chicken breast I had brought home from a grocery store that week.

Anger’s a stage of grief, though, right? It’s exhausting and I’m not sure it looks good on me, so I pray for peace. The silver lining on my dark, angry cloud is that I’m never so deep into a rant or flood of tears that someone can’t make me laugh.

Upon the loss of our friend Amy, I’m trying to ride the waves of grief and feel things as they come. For the first time in years, I didn’t feel like writing. So, I didn’t write for a few days and it felt good. I think I’m ready now.

Stephen King Quote

One day I cooked up a frenzy and baked my feelings into a homemade apple pie, with Patty Griffin’s song “Making Pies” on my mind. Griffin sings about a woman who lost her loved one in a war. In his interpretation of the song, Jim Beviglia writes, “It doesn’t even matter which war, because the loss felt by those left behind is always the same.”

He adds, “Her choice tells it all: ‘I’m making pies.’ . . . making pies becomes an act of seemingly limitless courage.”

It’s hard to sit with these feelings of grief. It’s uncomfortable and it’s scary and it’s overwhelming. To grieve is to be courageous. Take heart in this and remember that there really is no wrong way to grieve.

IMG_4783

The North Iowa bloggers gathered the night of Amy’s visitation to take a selfie with that selfie stick she was so fond of. She was the only one I knew who had one and she knew how to rock it!

My heart is filled with gratitude for you, my dear readers. During this week of loss and heartbreak, you have shown not only me, but my other North Iowa bloggers a great amount of care and encouragement. I’m so humbled by your kind words, emails, comments and other expressions of support in remembering our friend and grieving with our community. You are so very special to me. Thank you for also keeping her family in your thoughts and prayers. 

Dining At A Table Set For 2,000. Create: The Community Meal

It’s hard to describe dining at a half-mile long table set for 2,000.

Table

My place at table 123 wasn’t just part of a meal, but a massive art piece that finally came to fruition after two years in the making.

Artist and host Seitu Jones was inspired to partner with Public Art St. Paul and plan CREATE: The Community Meal after watching people pass by his residence and studio located in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota carrying grocery bags of processed foods from the convenience store. He embarked on a food assessment of the community with the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and Afro-Eco to learn what factors drive people to choose unhealthier foods. The study identified cost, a lack of access, and lost sense of knowing how to cook whole foods to be these driving factors.

Volunteers played a pivotal role in cultivating community. They set up and tore down. They greeted us at every entrance gate and helped us find our tables. And at least one volunteer sat at each table to facilitate the moving pieces of the meal’s artistry.

Even the table settings had a very intentional layout.

recycling Collage

The whole event was designed to have zero waste and these Zero Waste Labs dotted each block. The place mats were handcrafted by Jones’ neighbor Mary Hark from neighborhood plants like burdock and rhubarb.

Empty seats were offered to those who were not able to reserve a ticket online and anyone else that wanted to join.

When it was time to eat, our hosts processed to the tables with platters of honey-ginger chicken they served in unison with gracefully choreographed movements.

meal procession watermark

We dove into the tender chicken with our fingers and enjoyed it with rice and beans, cornbread, salad greens and Salad Girl vinaigrette, and spicy collard greens with carrots and green beans all sourced within 40 miles (except for the rice). Of course, everything was served family style.

Meal Serving Collage

It’s impossible to be an island to one’s self while eating from platters meant to be shared. At some point, even the shyest person would have to ask for more of something, as every component was worthy of seconds. Chef James Baker of Elite Catering & the SunnySide Cafe prepared the type of meal that I will try to replicate over and over.

During my first year after college, I interned at Redeemer Center for Life located in the Harrison Neighborhood of Near North Minneapolis across the street from SunnySide. Elite catered some work events and I was filled with excitement when I first read that Baker would lead the menu.

Plate Watermarked

Throughout the meal, our gracious host facilitated discussions about our favorite childhood meals, favorite desserts and asked us to brainstorm one way we could overcome an obstacle in our community to healthy and sustainable food.

Growing up in Apple Valley, Minnesota, we didn’t eat too adventurously. Therefore, my favorite meals were the special occasions where we would order Chinese take-out. I’ve always had a taste for spicy foods and preferred savory over sweet, so as an adopted Korean, I was interested to learn that one’s food preferences can be influenced in utero. In my case, this explains a lot.

All of our food stories are so unique and worth exploring.

When the final bell sounded we read a closing written by Soyini Guyton that ended with the final words, “We wish to never forget the healing power of food, community, and love. We go in peace.” 

Those who walked by and wanted to dine was offered food and a seat at the table, yet some leftovers remained. These were offered to anyone who wanted to take them home and finally delivered to a shelter.

The rhythm of spoken word drew us down Victoria towards University and continued to weave personal stories of food and identity.

spoken word

Participating in Jones’ community meal was a humbling experience. There’s something humbling about being cared for by strangers.

I left overjoyed at connecting with old friends and making some new. Is there a better way to bring people together than over a meal? Good things happen when you break bread with strangers.

© 2019 Jeni Eats

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