Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lunch Box Chronicles: Day One-Hundred Seventy-Nine (Let Good Prevail Over Evil)

(Writer's Note:  This piece was written shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013)

Tell me it is not so.  I like to believe you don’t exist, that you are not so lost and disconnected from the beauty of life.  Please tell me that your choice is not to destroy it.

But, you show me otherwise.

You rattle my psyche.  You unnerve my children.  You bring terror in a backpack.  I like to think you do not exist.

But you are there.

And, you rattle, unnerve, terrorize, and destroy.

But we are here.   And, we calm, comfort, protect, and create.

You almost silenced me.  But, I won’t let you.  If I am silent, you have won. I am here to tell a story – simple as it is, of family, love, and food; of good over evil.  

There are stories of hope, of sharing, of simplicity that are wedged in between the episodes of tragedy.

And one day, a simple meal was created with love, by cousins lost and found.  Strangers the day before, now forever entwined by blood.  They worked together to recreate the flavors of those who preceded them.  And the spirits of their common great granddads and great grandmoms danced in the crowded kitchen whispering secrets from 100 years past when they landed on Ellis Island in the same City in search of a better life.

10, 10s have passed, and those great grandchildren have unknowingly returned to the same place to hear the stories, smell the scents, and taste the flavors that were brought here just for this moment.

And locked in time, cloistered from the noises from without, the stories unwind from within…..

“Kristen, did you know your granddad, my uncle, was a war hero, with his picture in Life Magazine?”

“And that your grandma, my aunt, was perhaps one of the best cooks on the planet?”

“Olivia and Spence, did you know your granddad, my dad, worked on airplanes during WWII…?”

“And that your grandma and granddad, my parents, had a big pool, where people paid to swim, and all the relatives visited, and laughed, and danced, and ate?”

“And all of you, did you know that your great great granddad was a slave to a sultan somewhere in the Middle East?  He was told he could win his freedom if he fought and killed a bear with his bare hands.   Do you think he won?”

“Are you here today because of the bear?”

“And, kids, please just keep chopping the onions, squeezing the lemons, and measuring the olive oil.”

We made quite a feast that night.  Enough to serve multiple generations.   We made fitayers with ground beef, fitayers with spinach, red-pepper pies, and tabouli (with quinoa – not something our ancestors would have recognized, but something we believe they would have appreciated.)

And here we share one of those recipes, Tabouli with Quinoa, that combines tastes and cultures from across the globe that weave in and out of generations.  Here is to good eating, and good people.

Recipe for Tabouli (with quinoa rather than cracked wheat)

2 bunches of fresh curly parsley – rinsed, destemmed, finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh spearmint – rinsed, destemmed, finely chopped
1 onion or 3/4 cup scallions finely chopped
2-3 red plump tasty tomatoes finely chopped
2 fresh lemons squeezed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 cup quinoa cooked and drained according to instructions (let cool)

Toss the parsley, spearmint, onions, and tomatoes together.  Add lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Toss.  Add cooled quinoa.  Gently toss.

ENJOY your favorite dishes, BROUGHT to you by your great grandparents, MADE by your parents (and first cousin once removed).   TOAST to family, food, love, and PRAY for GOOD over EVIL.