We currently have vastly more access to substantially better stuff at radically lower prices than ever before in history. But the underlying collection of distant attenuated supply chains and finance mechanisms are spectacularly fragile and vulnerable to disruption. As an antidote I intentionally re-skill when and where possible, starting with the necessities at the bottom of the pyramid. Food. Water. Shelter. Community.
I recently spent the day learning how to make stuffed grape leaves with a friend under the supervision of her Egyptian mother. It’s one thing to read a recipe. It’s something else entirely to work through the process in the company of an experienced hand. I’ve had many Greek, Lebanese, Turkish, and Palestinian friends over the years. Each has a slightly different way of preparing their grape leaves. In their simplest form there’s rice, a bit of lemon juice, some mint or parsley, and olive oil. But many variations exist that might include ground lamb or beef, carrots, celery, onions, spices… Each family tradition is unique. What I like about the dish is that it’s simple, extremely tasty, healthy, and inexpensive. I have an abundance of grape vines growing in the back garden, plenty of veggies in cultivation, a huge amount of rice stored in the pantry, and ready access to local sources of fresh oil.
The act of gathering with friends, family, and neighbors to do simple satisfying work like this and then enjoying a meal together is entirely different from popping a frozen tray into a microwave.
I made a big batch on my own at home to make sure I had the technique down properly. I’ll get better with time, but my initial attempt isn’t half bad. It isn’t the grape leaves themselves that are important. It’s the entire process of working with others and forming parallel arrangements that work – at least a little bit – outside the usual systems. And so delicious.