On the hot drive up the valley to Sacramento,
The oleanders in the center of the freeway
Had grown taller than a man, widened,
And drooped over the guardrail.
The scorching winds lifted the branches erect,
Floated the blossoms down and up.
We listened to an old tape of “Hey Jude”
As we rolled past miles and miles
Of those powerful plants, totems somehow
Of longing and summer love.
That night, the sunset was stronger
Than any of Picasso’s women.
The lines of white clouds angled
Like the ribs of a fan, azalea colors glowing between,
Strumming like the throb of a deep night’s dream.
On a June morning, the innocence is astonishing;
A single wild rose stands out in the underbrush
Like a small pink planet.
A rock, almost hidden in the manzanita,
Takes in sunlight in its quiet way.
Nearby, a tiny flow of air
Passes through the branches of the eucalyptus,
Sending the down-pointing leaves into a flutter
That almost tinkles
Like fingers playing some numinous tune.
We can look for small signs, little changes that can lead us to a happier and healthier path as we move into this new future. Even the way we eat could shift in quiet ways. We could try being a little more adventurous, or perhaps just a little bit less picky. Here’s an idea. Let’s welcome every kind of food into our daily meals. And let’s treat the food we eat with respect and reverence. Let’s slow down and appreciate every bite. Remember what fun potlucks were when you were a child? Whether it was a school, a church, a neighborhood or an extended family, people would get together, and every group would bring a favorite dish to share. Potlucks went on for hours, and no one was ever in a hurry to leave.
In those days, no one would dream of showing up late at a potluck with a pint of coleslaw in a plastic container from Safeway, a bag of potato chips, or worst of all, empty handed. People took the time to make their specialty, something that everybody looked forward to. Women gained their reputations for making the best fried chicken, the best flan, the best potato salad, the best chocolate brownies, the best chicken adobo, the best butter mochi, the best enchiladas, the best baklava, or the best Chinese chicken salad, and the list of “the best” never seemed to end. Every item on the potluck table was eaten, appreciated, and talked about.
Most of these memorable dishes were made from inexpensive ingredients but required time and careful attention to every detail of preparation, flavor, and presentation. Many were based on old family recipes, cherished for years and handed down by parents and grandparents. Some of these special foods originated in some faraway land and became household treasures. Because a potluck is a gathering that celebrates and respects the heritage and traditions of every family present, there were unspoken “rules” that made every potluck a grand occasion:
- Never bring a dish that you did not make yourself to a potluck.
- Serve your specialty in an attractive and appropriate container, preferably your very best casserole dish or an attractive cake plate or pedestal.
- Disposable aluminum pans are not welcome at a potluck, no matter how convenient they may seem to be.
- Always bring the right utensils to serve your special dish.
- Never arrive at a potluck with your ingredients in a bag, hoping to assemble your dish after you get there.
- When it’s time to eat, remove the lid or wrapping from your dish so guests can help themselves. Don’t expect the organizers of the potluck to do that for you.
- Never, never, never bring a store-bought pie to a potluck. It will make everyone sad.
As I think back fondly on all the potlucks I loved as a child, I can see now that the unique charm of a potluck is its eclectic nature. No one at a potluck would ever say, “Hay, what’s that Prune Cake doing on the table? This is a Chinese buffet!” But when we eat in restaurants, we usually choose a particular type of food, perhaps of national or regional origin: Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Italian, Indian, Chinese, American or Southern Barbecue. Even at home we seldom serve different types of cuisine at the same meal. Why not? Isn’t a food item that is delicious and memorable always good, no matter when or where it is eaten?
While I am familiar with the nuances of menu development and the selection of harmonious foods based on the season, the terroir (environmental factors affecting crops and livestock in a specific area,) color, texture, flavors and compatible ingredients, I still think there is plenty to learn and appreciate through the inter-cultural sharing of foods in a single meal. It might be fun to apply this principle to a family dinner or even a Tea Party.
As you know, our website is all about Afternoon Tea from the international perspective. As I look back over our blogs and our Tea Party menus from countries all over the world, I am thinking how delightful it would be to bring many cultures together in a single tea party. Here is a hypothetical Afternoon Tea menu including some of my favorite foods from faraway places I have visited in my travels.
Genmai Cha (Japan)
Iced Rooibos Tea (South Africa)
(California: Rose’s January 2020 Blog)
Isaac’s Roasted Tomato Salsa
(California Mexican Heritage: Rose’s August 2019 Blog)
Tea Smoked Eggs
(China: Rose’s February 2020 Blog)
Open-Faced Smoked Salmon Sandwiches on Swirled Rye
(Russia: Website: A World of Tea Parties: A Russian Tea)
Margaret Murdock’s Irish Soda Bread with Kerry Gold Butter and Orange Marmalade
(Ireland: Website: March: A St. Patrick’s Day Irish Tea)
Hawaiian Banana Bread with Cream Cheese and Guava Jelly
(Hawaii: Rose’s May 2017 Blog)
Cheese and Condiment Platter
Manchego with Quince Paste (Spain)
Jarlsberg (Switzerland) with Cucumber Namasu
(Japan: Website: January: A Japanese New Year’s Tea)
Cheddar with Branston Pickle Relish and Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers (England)
(Botswana: Rose’s July 2017 Blog)
Mexican Wedding Cookies
(Mexico: Also known as Russian Tea Cakes: Website: October Dia de los Muertos Tea)
Chocolate Almond Torte
(France: Rose’s April 2019 Blog)
(Greece: Website: August: Greek or Mediterranean Family Reunion Tea)