Monday, August 2, 2010

Gifts of Beer and Meat


Gifts come in many guises. Sometimes they're obviously packaged in pretty paper with ribbons and a little card. Sometimes they're presented in the form of a broken bone that forces you to sit still and rethink your habitual thoughts. Sometimes they're somewhere in between, and possibly not even wanted or welcomed. Still, I think a true gift, one that comes from the best place in someone, without strings or expectations, should always be accepted with grace and gratitude, even if you're not sure you actually want it. 

If a little kid gives you a scribbled masterpiece for your refrigerator, by golly, clear some magnet space and put it up. If someone offers a compliment, take it. You are looking very pretty today. If a homeless guy offers you a warm, crusty plastic container of cottage cheese from somewhere deep within his trench coat, yes, hold out your hand and say Thank You. It's rude to throw a gift back in the giver's face. 

The other night, in the middle of Camper Madness, a frequent neighbor, who comes out with his teenage boys and his ski boat, dashed over to our campfire with two beers in hand, saying he just wanted to thank us for always being so nice. Lovely! We love beer! A little while later he came back with a big slab of steak on a paper plate... Uh oh - It was harder to be gracious about this gift, since we're vegans, and were sitting there happily chomping our organic corn-on-the-cob. We explained that we're vegetarians, and the poor man fell all over himself apologizing, fearing he'd offended us with his meaty offering. We felt bad. It was a gift, after all, and a heartfelt one. But we don't like to waste food, and we couldn't accept the meat snack with any kind of honesty. 

The next morning he sent the boys over with an even larger plate of meat. This time they were getting ready to leave, and didn't to take the leftovers home. This time the gift was "for the dogs". OK then! That worked. We found some balance, a way for them to give, and for us to receive, and for all of us, dogs included, to feel good and happy. Phew! That was a tricky one. The dogs were quite thrilled, and I just had to suck it up and spend some time cutting slabs of meat into little bites for them. I was uncomfortable, but I was also grateful for the gesture, and thanked not only the givers of the steak, but the cow itself, honoring the animal, rather than feeling disgusted by it.

Later, another camper, who was here recovering from heart surgery he'd had just 4 days earlier, offered some vegetables from his organic garden. Big ripe, tomatoes, squashes of various sorts, and tiny red and yellow tomatoes sweet enough to eat for dessert. It was easy to accept all this. Vegetarians generally love vegetables. And then I looked at that big pile of food and realized I was going to have to get creative and make something good to eat with it. Suddenly it went from Gift to Work. I had to let it sit over night, and this morning inspiration came. Tonight we'll grill the squash over the campfire and cook up a batch of quinoa. As I write, I'm listening to a pot of tomatoes bubble away on the stove, simmering with olive oil, garlic, wine, and basil, reducing down to a lovely, fragrant, thick sauce that will be just perfect with the rest of the meal. 




A gift can be easy as a bottle of bubble bath that reminds you to pamper yourself, or more labor intensive, like a flat of vegetables. But when given, and received, from the heart, any gift can set you in a direction you may not have planned on, and that in itself, is always a gift. I wish you could smell my kitchen right now...




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4 comments:

Michelle said...

Hi Kim, I love your new Pink Silk Heaven beads, they look like Heaven to me, but alas, sold already ! Perhaps you'll make some more ???....
If I lived near where you are I would dig up some vegetables from my friends allotment for you !! I am also vegetarian ! Good for the dogs that meat though !

Kim Miles ~ said...

Michelle - not sure how i made those, but I'll try for some more. I really should make notes... :o)

And this is from Diane. Sounds delicious!!! Thanks Diane!

"Dear Kim,
I just finished reading your blog and immediately knew that I had to send off this discovery that I made today. We have a small garden this year...and we are just loving the miracle of our very own homegrown vegetables. Our house currently smells like heaven, thanks to this following discovery:

TOMATO CONFIT
Ingredients
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground white pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled, split, germ removed and finely sliced
10 basil leaves, torn
4 sprigs thyme, leaves only
2 bay leaves, broken
20 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Directions
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and pour about 2 tablespoons olive oil evenly over the pan. Sprinkle the oil with salt and pepper. Strew a little of the garlic, basil, thyme, and bay leaves over the oil. Cut each tomato lengthwise in half and carefully, with your fingers or a tiny spoon, remove the seeds. Lay the tomato halves cut side down in the pan, wiggling the tomatoes around if necessary so that each tomato has a floss of oil on its cut side. Using a pastry brush, give the tops of the tomatoes a light coat of olive oil. Season the tops of the tomatoes with salt and pepper and a little sugar, and scatter over the rest of the garlic, basil, thyme, and bay leaves. Slide the pan into the oven and bake the tomatoes for 2 1/2 hours, or until they are very tender but still able to hold their shape; turn the tomatoes over at half-time and open the oven for just a second every 30 minutes or so
to get rid of the moisture that will build up in the oven. Cool the tomatoes to room temperature on their pan. When the tomatoes are cool, transfer them to a jar, stacking them neatly. Pour whatever oil remains in the pan over the tomatoes and then, if you plan to keep the tomatoes longer than 1 or 2 days, pour in enough olive oil to cover and refrigerate.
************************************************************
They are quite yummy to eat right down as a snack...but also have endless possibilities for adding to other things. Pasta, sandwiches, salads, and I am looking forward to making a ricotta/tomato confit tart. After he tasted the confit my husband thinks that I am a genius.....needless to say I am not telling him that making this wasn't very creative on my part but just a lucky discovery:-) Give the confit a try next time you have some donated tomatoes and a cool day to run the oven....I promise that you won't be disappointed! Diane"

Anonymous said...

Oh, thanks for sharing this delicious sounding confit recipe. I think I'll start accepting surplus tomato offers. Too bad you don't eat cheeze any longer. This sounds like it would be good with cheeze and crackers.

I agree with your views of the spirit of giving and the spirit of receiving. It's one of our civilizing graces.

Norine

Kim Miles ~ said...

I do miss cheese sometimes. I read that it actually has addictive something-or-others in it... no wonder we love it so much! A new friend is coming for cocktail time on Thursday, and bringing her home made goat cheese. I believe I'll make an exception... with gratitude!