Saturday, September 28, 2013

inspiration...with a few veggies

We only ever really teach anyone anything by example. You can tell people that there is merit in taking risks, following their passion, yadah, yadah, yadah. But seeing someone who’s actually doing it and watching their life transform before your very eyes, well, that’s a whole other thing.

Last night, I went to a dinner at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City, where a friend of mine is studying to be a chef. Not just any kind of chef. A vegan chef.

I believe it was my third vegan meal to date, if you don’t count the times in my life when I just ate lettuce, or when, in my twenties, a meal for me consisted of an apple.

Yeah, me and the vegetarian/vegan thing have had quite the contentious relationship over the years as I’ve tried things optimistically called “veggie dogs” and “hamburgers” that resembled the meat versions of these foods in no other way but possibly shape.

So the first time I went to a dinner party at my friend, JJ’s house, I told my father to save me some chicken for when I got home, because there was a good chance I’d be hungry.

I drove to her house and the rest of the guests, a.k.a. my friends, had already scoped out the nearest pizza place. Some also ate before arriving there, I believe.

Oh, it’s not to be derogatory about my friend…or her culinary skills. But come on, what can you really do to vegetables? And how many can one realistically eat and enjoy in one sitting?

Well, before I get back to the whole topic of passion and how following it is the good and right thing to do, let me just say that JJ’s dinner that night was one of the best meals I think I’ve had in my life. I don’t honestly know what the heck she did to the vegetables. I only know that every bite brought with it the kind of sensory delight I’d only experienced in meals containing, let’s just say non-vegan entities.

So last night, as I drove into the city to attend a vegan meal prepared by my friend and the rest of the chefs in her graduating class, I was actually looking forward to it. Now, don’t get all excited. I did notice countless restaurants in the vicinity as I drove around looking for parking, you know, just in case.

But back to my friend, for a minute. Joanne, or JJ as I’ve always known her, spent her entire adult life working at a completely different career, you know, the kind that had job security and probably a good pension. She always had a sunny disposition, so I never thought about her as being unhappy, particularly. But the truth is we all have dreams and aspirations. And hers, completely unbeknownst to me, was to be a chef.

When we were seated next to each other at a friend’s birthday dinner last year, she seemed different to me – like she was lit up, exuberant. It seems she had “retired” from her other job of many years and was now studying to be a chef.

I listened intently as she told me about the different classes with such excitement that she just could not contain her utter glee. It was like someone had let her out of prison and unleashed this vision of unbridled joy. And all I could think was I wanted to get me some of that!

So being invited to partake in this milestone three-course meal before her graduation was an honor. And when the chefs came out at the end of it to be acknowledged, she radiated even more joy than I’d witnessed that first night she told me about it.

I can’t help but think that it would be a completely different world if everyone followed their passion. I can’t help but think that people would be kinder and more compassionate and that a world where people honored their true callings would look more peaceful and love-filled. If we don’t honor ourselves, how exactly is it that we can truly honor another? When we disrespect that part of us that lights up, whether it’s about slicing and dicing vegetables, or discovering something in science, or teaching a child to read, how can we expect others to respect us when we dismiss ourselves so easily?

There’s dignity in even the most menial job done well. But we don’t often think that these days, so we look to cut corners, and there’s no pride that can be taken in that. No wonder people are angry.

I think we all owe it to ourselves and humanity as a whole to do something that we are passionate about. Maybe we all can’t quit our bill-paying jobs right now, but doing something to reignite the spark within us is absolutely doable. Feeding our souls is as important, if not more so, than feeding our bodies. Our time here is finite. So not to wring every ounce of joy out of it that we can is tragic. The world needs our happiness. It’s already seen our rage and our unhappiness.

And to my friend, the ridiculously talented and amazing chef, Joanne Sonderling, I say, first – congratulations, second – you inspire me tremendously, and third – only YOU could get me to eat vegan and like it!!!

Have a great day, everyone. Thanks for stopping by. And please tell your friends.

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