Last night as Dean and I sat down to dinner it hit me that I need to clarify something. I write about our garden and the food we grow so much that it’s possible I’ve given the impression that we are food purists. We’re not. Life is busy and time is limited and sometimes we just want a frozen pizza or nachos or something that doesn’t take planning or effort. That’s how it came about that we invented the “dress that somebitch up” category of dinners at our house. They’re best on Fridays and basically the recipe looks like this:
1. Pick a record to listen to and put it on. (Look for one that will lift the energy, because you usually need a boost by the end of the work week.)
2. Find a pre-made pizza crust or quesadilla makings or a bag of tortilla chips. (A slice of white bread would work in a pinch.)
3. Heat the oven. (Usually to about 400 degrees)
4. In the time it takes to heat up the oven, put together something delicious and nutritious to add to item in step 2. (The goal is to add something with good Jing* every time.) (*I’ll try to explain what I mean by Jing further down.)
5. Add the results of step 4 to what you found in step 2.
6. Bake it until it looks ready. (We’ve learned that on a Friday night it’s good to set a timer so you don’t forget about it in the oven.)
7. Pull it out of the oven. (Be sure to turn the oven off!)
8. Let it rest for 2-3 minutes. (This is a good time to clear some space at the table.)
9. Slice it. Scoop it. Put it on a plate.
10. Eat. (It’s important to comment frequently and dramatically on how delicious your food is, and how clever you are to have dressed that somebitch up.)
11. Save the dishes for morning (Because you’re done with the work week.)
12. Pick another record. (Take the energy down just a notch.)
13. Make a pot of tea. (This is an opportunity to consume more Jing!)
This is what dinner looks like almost every Friday night at our house in the darker months. It started as a way to be easy on ourselves but it’s turned into a weekly celebration. We may be tired and in need of recharging by the time Friday evening rolls around, but we’re home, and we have two days ahead of us and during those two days we can be ourselves and pursue the things we love and work on the things we care most about.
In certain Chinese traditions like Taoism, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi, there are three energies that sustain life. They’re called Jing, Qi, and Shen, and are known as the “Three Treasures.” My husband has been practicing Qi Gong and Tai Chi for nearly a decade, and while he’s introduced me to these ancient concepts it would take a lifetime of study to truly understand them.
On a very basic level, Jing* is the essence of a thing.
Merriam-Webster defines “essence” as the basic nature of a thing : the quality or qualities that make a thing what it is.
Imagine the potential that’s contained in a blueberry seed. If that seed is given what it needs—the right amount of water, proper soil, an ideal temperature, clean air, and time, then it can transform into what it is meant to become: a blueberry bush that grows beautiful, delicious berries. That transformation is an energetic process.
Once we consume the blueberry, the energy that was contained within it is converted into our own life’s energy. According to Taoist principles, the catalyst that turns the Jing from the berry into life energy, or Qi, is love.
Jing is the building material for Qi, but love is required in order for the transformation to take place. It’s going to take a while for me to wrap my mind around this.
The third of the Three Treasures is Shen, and I’m not sure how to write about it because it has to do with things I can’t quite put to words. It’s an energy that comes from the practice of moving the Qi energy. The movement of Qi creates the pathway for a kind of alchemy that converts the Qi into something beyond life energy. That something is Shen and it’s associated with Spirit, and our souls. It has to do with being connected to the food we eat, the air we breath, the soil, and water. It has something to do with love.
All of this is to try to explain Jing, which is the essence of food, fuel of our life force, and key to discovering the Divine, and to tell you how we incorporated it into our dinner last night after an exhausting work week.
Here’s the recipe:
1. We chose the record album “uh-huh” by John Cougar Mellencamp. (I checked it out from the library!)
2. Dean pulled the cauliflower crust pizzas we’d purchased from Save-U-More earlier in the week in anticipation of Friday night from the freezer.
3. I picked some King of the North red bell peppers that are growing in our living room now that the greenhouse is put away for winter.
4. I pulled a few yellow and red tomatoes out of the box in the pantry where they’re slowly ripening.
5. I peeled and and crushed four cloves of Vietnamese red garlic.
6. I chopped up part of the portobello mushroom I found last weekend near the chicken coop.
7. I sauteed the veggies and mushroom on medium heat for five or so minutes before I added three tablespoons of Concord grape shrub that I made last year from some grocery store grapes. Then I sprinkled on a pinch of salt.
8. After all the flavors melded together I spooned it onto the frozen pizza.
9. Then I baked it at 420 degrees for thirteen minutes.
10. I pulled it out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes. While it sat I put this week’s mail into a pile that will be sorted later. I scooped the dandelion roots that have been drying all week on our kitchen table into a jar. I moved the crock of fermenting sauerkraut from the center of the table to the side.
11. Then we sliced the pizza and ate it.
12. We agreed that it was one of the best DTSB-up dinners so far. High in flavor. High in Jing. We ate a slice or two more than we really needed.
12. When we were done we made a pot of tea. (nettle, clover, dandelion root and chocolate mint)
13. We put on another record I brought home from the library. This time it was Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield. We listened to “For What It’s Worth” three times for the lyrics and “Bluebird” twice, once for the guitar and a second time for the banjo.
We sipped our tea and changed the music a few more times. We talked about what we want to accomplish over the weekend. We decided that it’s time to get the candles out, and the copper wire lights to string around the ficus tree. We left the dishes for later.