Of Mothers and Buzzards


Ladies, if you haven't heard it yet several times today, Happy Mother's Day! Gentlemen, if you haven't said it several times today, it is not yet midnight, so go ahead and tell the important women in your life - yo' mama, yo' sister, yo' wife, those 3 magic words. Everybody likes to be recognized and appreciated for the hard work they do. Now, bear with me. What I am going to say next will depart from our Mother's Day theme, but hopefully only temporarily, as I aim to come back around to it. In the last several months there has been a flock of buzzards that has taken up residence in my neighborhood. I have kind of a morbid fascination with watching them as they switch nightly roosts from tall barren trees to high-pitched rooftops. I can't help but respect the way they saunter across the roads with a sort of complacent, yet cocky attitude, as if to say "Go ahead. Hit me. I need the money." Their very appearance - large, black, looming, with an only-a-mother-could-love-that-bald-head, makes me both shudder and appreciate them. Kind of like the road crews that have "INMATE" on their work jerseys. I appreciate the work they do, and yet I wonder what they could have done to have earned themselves spots on the unpaid-public-sanitation force. Similarly what would someone have to do or be like to create the karma to end up as a buzzard?

Anyway, I promised myself that I wouldn't dwell on this too deeply, as it seems athematic on today's holiday. Suffice it to say that I am grateful (though creeped out) for their presence and the function they serve. More than just what they do, the buzzards, by their very nature, serve as a constant reminder of death. Death in most cultures is not perceived as an unforgiving end, rather but rather as a force of change and transformation. One chapter ends and another begins. That's all. The story is by no means over.

This brings me to motherhood. I told you I would get back to it! Wait for it... Watching your child grow (as you simultaneously age) is a series of deaths. Ask any mother who has experienced the bittersweet of realizing her toddler has lost all his/her baby fat and looks like a "big kid" now. Or who sends her child off to school for the first day. Or when you realize that your child is officially a teenager and no longer wants the world to know you exist. Or when you send your child off to college. Or walk your daughter down the aisle. Parenthood is a continual process of change, adaption, of surrender.

When I was a teenager I glibly quoted Kahlil Gibran to my mother, "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you." - The Prophet Sigh. Teenagers can be sooooo tactless. When I read that I had felt affirmed, justified. At last, here was wisdom of the ancients confirming that children are not meant to be controlled by their parents. They are meant to strike out on their own, test the waters of Life and Truth, carry out their own individual destiny. So smug was I to inform my mother that The Prophet and spoken and she could just go ahead on and back off now. As the mother of a child who will soon be nearing the precipice of puberty and teendom, things look a little different from my vantage point now. I am absolutely convinced that I don't own anything about my child, except my responsibility to give him the most stable, educated, spiritually enlightened foundation that I possibly can. What he builds on that foundation is not in my control. Still, when I heard a new song called "Slow Down" (I warn you before clicking, if you're a Mama, you may want a tissue in hand before listening) on the radio last night , I couldn't help but well, get a little verklempt and wish my baby would take his time growing up. And that is what buzzards and parenthood have in common. Actually I am sure there are more comparisons we could draw, such as, parenthood sometimes includes cleaning up "dead bodies," or that it can sometimes push you to the edge of humanity where you feel more like a hulking, grumpy, black bird, and... well, let's not even go there. Happy Mother's Day y'all superheroines! The world depends on what you do.

This Week's Menu:

Entree #1 - Jagannatha Puri Chana Dal This dal hails from the state of Orissa in the Eastern part of India. There are many, many temples throughout Orissa (as is the case all over India), and in the city of Jagannatha Puri, there is one very special temple - the massive temple of Lord Jagannatha Himself. "Natha" means lord. "Jagat" means universe. In this temple, which hosts millions of pilgrims annually, Jagannatha, the "Lord of the Universe," is served with great opulence and pomp. Many of the priests at the temple come from families whose lineage of service in the temple extends back many generations. This mild, creamy dal recipe is just one of many such traditional recipes that has been passed down, through the generations, from one temple cook to another. Thus the ancient art of cooking for the Divine has been preserved until the present day. You will see when you taste this dal, that it has a subtle, undefinable, almost nectarean flavor to it, that can only be traced back to its origins in the kitchens of Devotion. *GF, soy-free

Entree #2 - Greek White Beans & Greens For this second entree, I had been planning on making a Greek version of Black-Eyed Peas. While I was looking for that recipe, I found this one and knew I must try it. We will be using oodles of beets for one of the side dishes. All those beets are going to have delectable, nutrient-rich greens on them that would often be discarded and sad, pining away for the chance to be used in a recipe of their own. Greens, fret no more! This recipe just can't live without you. Like many of the recipes I have found on The Greek Vegan, this one calls for just a few, fresh, good-quality ingredients. The author insists that here dried dill will not do, the herbs must be fresh. She also suggests using amaranth greens, along with the beet and/or chard greens. For those of you who are obsessed with excellence in produce (isn't everyone?), I will give you a hint - you can find a wide variety of fresh herbs, greens, tubers, and other specialty produce (like amaranth) at Compare Foods, off of Avondale Avenue in Durham. Ooh! Your taste buds and tummy will love you for giving them such flavorful nutrition as this. *GF, soy-free

(photo thegreekvegan.com)

Entree #3 - Gigantes Plaki I hate to play favorites... and yet, of all the Greek entrees I have previously made, this one is my favorite. It combines a tantalizing mix of fresh flavors like tomato, celery, parsley, and mint with the heartiest, creamiest, giant white lima beans you have ever met. All those alluring ingredients are slow-cooked together in the oven into a roasted perfection. For all you Southern mamas out there, you may find that, come summer picnic time, these Greek beauties give your regular baked beans a tough run for their money. *GF, soy-free

(photo thegreekvegan.com)

Side Dishes: Brown Rice - $1/serving (1 cup) Spanakorizo (Spinach Rice) - $3/serving (1 cup) A Greek version of Arroz Verde, Spanakorizo combines the fresh flavor of spinach with dill, mint, and oregano. :-0! How tasty can you possibly get? Made with brown rice, this dish pairs delightfully with the baked beans. *GF, soy-free

(photo thegreekvegan.com)

Roasted Potatoes - $4/serving, 2 for $7. What is not to like about potatoes? Well besides their glycemic index... Other than that, potatoes, especially ones flavored with olive oil, lemons, and fresh herbs are pretty universally loved. And besides, how could you say 'no' to a face like these fries have? *GF, soy-free

(photo thegreekvegan.com)

Greek Beet Salad - $6/lb. Out of all the salads we could make this week, I was eager to come back to this roasted beet extravaganza. It is both sweet and savory, as well as light and filling, all at the same time. Don't miss this salad. It is a testament to the magic that occurs when olive oil, vinegar and fresh herbs all team up.*GF, soy-free

(photo thegreekvegan.com)

Carob Date Nut Bites - ​$1/ea., 6 for $5. It seems that there are practically endless variations on the date/dried fruit & nut sweets that you can make. I was so very happy then to find this new recipe which combines all the usual ingredients that I would expect to find in a wonderful sweet ball such as this. It also calls for a few surprise ingredients, is healthy and vegan, and is authentically Greek! I think the skies just opened up while angelic voices rang out from the clouds... a sign from dessert heaven. *GF, soy-free

(photo thegreekvegan.com)

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