The thing about gardening is that I get to touch food in the raw. There is something sacred about that. Not only do I trim and clip, stake and tie, water and feed, but I also harvest and handle. Touching the plants and ultimately the food is unavoidable.
Some plants like the squashes and cucumbers are prickly. If I want to avoid an itchy rash, I wear a long sleeve shirt and gloves in that part of the garden. Artichokes, too, are spiny, so I clip those with care. Tomato plants stain my hands green. The leaves of lettuce and spinach are fragile and tear easily. Carrots and beets bring soil with them and must be brushed with my fingers. Peas are smooth and green beans are snappy. And herbs vary in texture. Every part of the garden has a feel. The gardener must touch the food.
In some parts of the world, people eat food with their fingers. No utensils. I like this. This year, I decided to have a monthly tea with a couple of my good friends. Each of us prepares finger food. Utensil using is minimal. The food seems to taste better. We pick it up, admire it, and notice it. We are aware of what we are eating. We are present to it and it is present to us. Of course food is always present, but often we are not.
I think of times that I opened a can, dumped it in a pan, ladled it into a bowl, and spooned it into my mouth. Never once did I touch it with my hands. I tasted it, but was I really engaged with it? Probably not. Generally, I cook with whole foods. This feels right. I get the sense that God made food to be picked and sorted, basketed and carried, washed and scrubbed, sliced and mashed, steamed and grilled, and eaten joyfully in the presence of the One Who Made It.
Touching food is a heavenly gift. A sacred experience. A reminder that there is one who provides for the body. For the hand. For the gardener’s hand. For the one who would touch food and be present to the gift.
This is the way of the garden life: touching the gifts that it offers.