How to Fill up by Spilling

I’ve finished reading How We Decide, and the book I’m reading now is An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler. It’s one of those books that aren’t to be denied (nor should you). Rave reviews kept turning up across the world of my web browsing, seeming to ask me, “How about now? Are you ready for me yet?”

Go get a copy of your own. This book is a gem, and I recommend it highly. I’ll be buying it by the case so I can gift it to everyone I know.

The book feeds your soul as much as your tummy, probably more so. It’s a well-seasoned weaving of “philosophy and instruction into approachable lessons on instinctive cooking.” — that comes from the book jacket, and it’s a good description. The book appeals to those who aren’t chefs, but want to come to a good partnership with cooking because they like good food and want to eat it without too much fuss and bother. Respectfully and knowledgeably, yes. Professionally and elaborately, no.

That’s me, through and through. I know my kitchen intimately mostly because of keeping it clean; from a culinary perspective it feels like a foreign land even though I somehow raised a healthy family with its help.

But before I go too far down that rabbit hole, this post isn’t about cooking, or even learning to.

How to Build A Ship

Author Tamar Adler writes;

“There are times when I can’t bear to think about cooking. Food is what I love, and how I communicate love, and how I calm myself. But sometimes, without my knowing why, it is drained of all that. Then cooking becomes just another one of hunger’s jagged edges. So I have ways to take hold of this thing and wrest it from the jaws of resentment, and settle it back among the things that are mine.”

The chapter that begins with this paragraph is called “How to Build a Ship” and it’s about how Adler gets her inspiration back when it has momentarily slipped away.

As a quick but helpful aside, Adler says she has two loves: food and words. Her chapters are evocative in their announcements: “How to Light a Room” is about how herbs perk up food. “How to Live Well” is about understanding how wonderful the lowly bean can be. “How to Make Peace” is about how rice and ground corn (grits in the South, and polenta in Europe) are pacifists, because they “fill bellies and cracks in our meals, and they fill the cultural divisions in our appetites, which really, in the end, are the same.” This chapter got its name from a quote attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who is best remembered for his novella The Little Prince:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood, and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

So Adler takes his advice, and does just that for us, as her readers and hopeful voyagers. She explains how she gets her love of cooking back when she needs to, and guess what? It’s the shortest chapter in the book (at least as far as I’ve read). It’s because love has a way of sticking around, staying close to you.

How to Weave Cloth Without Thread

For me, weaving is about making learning relevant and useful; a beautiful cloth can be anything you want it to be, and mine is Managing with Aloha.
[We talked story about it here: Learning and Weaving: The absorption benefit of your Personal Philosophy]

When I read Adler’s “How to Build a Ship” I couldn’t help but think about those of us who are managers, and how often — much, much too often — we’ll “drum up people to collect wood” or “assign them tasks and work” when we should be teaching them “to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

I think Adler is right about her hunch that we have to fall in love again:

“My answer is to anchor food to somewhere deep inside you, or deep in your past, or deep in the wonders of what you love… I say: Let yourself love what you love, and see if it doesn’t lead you back to what you ate when you loved it.”

For her, it’s about the eating experience as much as the cooking experience. It’s about being where food has made everything surrounding her more vibrant and alive.

The question I have for you then, is this: Exactly what is the managemeant experience that will continually refresh your own inspiration, always helping you get your mojo back?

To put it more simply: When are you completely, and beautifully, in love with being a manager?

If you rewrote Adler’s chapter for the work you do as an Alaka‘i Manager — for your Ho‘ohana — what would you call it?

How to Fill Up By Spilling

My choice would be “How to fill yourself up by spilling” because of the spirit-spilling of Aloha. Spirit-spilling is what the beliefs I hold within my Alaka‘i calling are all about: Alaka‘i Managers are those who help people work from their inside out.

When I have been able to do that for someone, I feel full. I’m tremendously full, feeling nourished and satisfied. I feel healthy, and as alive as I have ever felt.

If my day falters in some way, I’ll usually get my inspiration by learning from people, willing to accept whatever they choose to share with me. It’s my quickest way, and it’s virtually guaranteed.
I get my continued energy in creating partnerships with them, or some other weaving (making the learning personal, relevant, and useful).

I count my successes as the people I’ve left behind better than I found them. To see them grow, or irrevocably identify their own strengths, knowing that I helped in some way, is extremely rewarding to me.

Recalling my ‘how to’ (to relight the fires of inspiration) gets easy for me to do, because all I have to remember are names. Faces, and the little details of people’s stories will come flooding back into my consciousness, and I begin to smile, I just can’t help it.

Then The Craving ever-beneath The Calling begins all over again. I want to be part of more stories, and so I get on with my ‘ship building.’

Loving this book!

I’ll leave you to think more about your own ‘how to’ with a final quote from Adler;

“So I listen hard. I listen with the purpose of remembering. And this digging into sounds and into days I have heard and felt roots future meals in the unchangeable truths of past ones.”

“Let smells in. Let the smell of hot tarmac in the summer remind you of a meal you ate the first time you landed in a hot place, when the ground smelled like it was melting. Let the smell of salt remind you of a paper basket of fried clams you ate once, squeezing them with lemon as you walked on a boardwalk. Let it reach your deeper interest. When you smell the sea, and remember the basket of hot fried clams, and the sound of skee-balls knocking against each other, let it help you love what food can do, which is to tie this moment to that one.”

When has being a manager been its very best and most beautiful for you?
What do you remember about it?

How will you do it again?

Comments

  1. says

    Such a gorgeous post, Rosa. And your questions at the end — When was it beautiful for you? — is the whole thing in a nutshell. (I can feel that longing for the immensity of the sea). I sense somehow I should offer congratulations, as this feels like a whole new level to your exquisite work.

    • Rosa Say says

      Mahalo nui Dan.

      Back in 2002 I had the good fortune of hearing Dr. Bill Thomas give a presentation at a Fast Company RealTime conference in San Diego. He has become an international authority on geriatric medicine and eldercare, now for ChangingAging.org, but at the time he was pioneering a concept called the Eden Alternative and telling us about it.

      What struck me then, and has stayed with me ever since, was the way he talked about human beauty, for he explained that there was a single objective in all the training he and his partners gave to the EA staff who were to become caregivers for the elderly: They had to learn to see through the ravages of aging (and the mood downturns it could produce), so they could constantly see the beauty inside every person in their care. That alone was Aloha magnificence for me, and then he went on to share the fringe benefits of that training; age became irrelevant, for caregivers treated family members and each other with newfound reverence for human dignity too.

      Since then, ‘beautiful’ became a much more special word for me, and I am so thankful and humbled that you ultimately arrived there from this posting. Then again, knowing you as I’ve come to, I’m not at all surprised… beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

  2. Rosa Say says

    March 15th update:

    Finished Adler’s book today – finished reading it, but will use it for a long, long time to come. Did a short review on my Tumblr and for GoodReads.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The book which influenced me most in recent memory, is at first glance a cookbook, but actually so much more: An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler. I have given more than a case worth away as gifts, and did two reviews on it: A short one on Goodreads first, and a longer one for TalkingStory.org second: How to Fill up by Spilling. […]