It has been quite a week: Irene and her aftermath- an unfolding story of the Vermont community coming together to move through this disaster–and very personal losses friends have endured that have nothing to do with hurricanes. I couldn’t sleep for the stories and memories swirling about my head when the lights went out. So much to process, to consider, to be thankful for, to want to change in the world.
My friend Alan Levine (aka @cogdog) was scheduled to be hanging out with us these past few days, biking, yacking, hiking, working in the gardens, swapping stories of the road and our lives. Living the Vermont life. I had been looking forward to it ever since he was last here in the spring, telling me about the driving adventure he was embarking on this summer and fall. I had lots of crazy ideas I wanted his feedback on, as always. I had lots of cooking I wanted to do with him from the vegetables and fruits I grow. But then life stepped in. His beloved mom died unexpectedly. And so naturally, his journey shifted.
When I heard the news, I was saddened–for him, of course–but also for the people whose lives she had touched. And that meant not only her friends and family (or Alan’s friends) but strangers she had come across and given cookies to on Sundays. You see, I knew a bit about Alan’s mom because he shared her with all of us who follow his blog, who listen to his stories, who have seen him present and who have had the good fortune to hang out with him. She was an inspiration to many of us, and is now, after her death, continuing to teach us how to give love to the world by being friendly to everyone, by being genuinely interested in people and their stories, and by giving of ourselves by stepping out of our busy lives for a moment to bake cookies to give to the people she came across every week and to strangers. Strangers! Now there’s the heart, the power of food stories. She made many many friends as you can well imagine! Alan is much like her–no, not with cookie gifts– but with his gift of stories and his listening to stories and his reaching out across the world to the many many people he has touched through his work, his kindness, his humor, his good sense. No wonder he is so well loved by so many people across this planet.
Surprise surprise, I rarely make cookies using a recipe. I usually don’t use eggs, sugar, butter, oil or wheat, preferring to challenge myself to make the healthiest tasty treats I can muster. Elizabeth and I grind up nuts and coconut instead of using wheat flour, and we add whatever interesting ingredient we have on hand that will give them spice and sweetness and depth without those heavies (see Elizabeth’s upcoming post about balancing healthy eating with local tradition). I like to play around with cookie recipes and so rarely make the same ones twice. To bring Alyce’s and Alan’s spirits into these cookies, I wanted to put a lot of layered, global love into them–so I went for cacao powder, ginger, Vietnamese cinnamon, vanilla crush and brazil nuts, almonds, pecans, coconut, hazelnut milk, the local blueberries I had just dried, the chocolate chips I had just bought with a friend.
Stories stories stories pulse through all of the ingredients–where I bought them, how I made or grew them, who was with me, who inspired me. And they are tasty indeed, tastier yet because of the stories, the memories and the reason I made them. And now to go give them away! Thanks, Alyce, for helping me to remember that the small gesture becomes a powerful connection. Thanks, Alan for sharing her with us!