Sunday, May 29, 2005

Why we do the things we do

My fortune cookie fortune reads: "A new outlook brightens your image and brings new friends." I guess this means that I am either getting a facial or new glasses.

FnB is Food Not Bombs. In its various forms it takes food that is going to be wasted and makes vegetarian meals served for free in parks and at protests around the world. Its foundations are anti-war and anti-poverty.

I am told that the concept of feeding friends and strangers without a monetary transaction or pedaling dogma is in itself radical. Others are not impressed "so you cook feed and eat, what's political about that?"

B and I are not core members of the homegrown urbanana chapter. We kinda do it because the ones we love do it. But this week the core members are gone and have asked us to take care of their baby while they are gone. Some will be gone for many weeks. They left town with the food bins locked in their homes (we are without our beans) and without introducing us to their produce contacts at the organic grocery ... We are Food Not Bombs, without food. B calls everyone she can think of who has helped out in the past. They cannot come, they are graduating from high school today or they are going to see someone graduate. We are what remains.

I gather a few lbs of pasta from my cabinet and B and I go to the Food Co-op to see if they have anything in their free bin that we can use. Over-ripe apricots, garlic, a few scrawny roma tomatoes and some artichokes. We find the artichokes to be bruised and utterly bewildering. Peel and pull and peel and peel and there is nothing left. So the menu is sugared apricots and pasta tossed with onion, garlic, tomato, margarine and olive oil. B is an inspired chef. Without a doubt.

We feel kind of lost just being the two of us. Each of us a little shy and not knowing the other very well. But we push on. It is overcast and we didn't do any PR for this serving and My Guy has taken his hard drive with all of "the inspirational for cooking" tunes, with him. We chop. B sautees. The pasta is very bland and we try to find some way to make it taste like something more than a big pot of noodles - more salt, more garlic, more margarine, more lemon herb seasoning. We push on. We drive up and the cops have bagged all the meters and no one is there. It starts to rain.

So we decide to get coffee and then come back and see if anyone is there. Some Sundays, folks don't show up until quarter past 4pm. Coming back, we see one kid standing under a tree in the rain, (He's the one that M finds annoying, which I can see, the kid is not so tactful.) he tells us that someone stopped by and left after 5 minutes. The turnout of one kid, the rain, the abandonment, missing someone seeking food, this is the last straw.

I do not want to stand in the rain with a bowl of pasta ( B doesn't either). We say that FnB is cancelled. B hands the kid the bowl of pasta with one fork stuck in it and a few plates and instructs him to bring the bowl back next week. I drop her off.

And have this massive pang of guilt at ditching FnB. I have this image of that kid with a bowl of pasta and one fork standing under a tree in the rain and I drive back to see if he is still there and to offer water, more plates, more forks, a napkin, and apricots. (which he had refused.)

There under a tree with the rain letting up (having never really out and out started) are five people eating pasta sharing a single fork. I give them beverages and apricots (which are a hit!) and pretzles and crackers, napkins. Each of them gets a fork of his/her own. And I talked to folks. Which I am usually too disoriented to do. One guy tells me that he wants to breed a miniature albino bison. (?)

I tell them that we need to figure out how to get food for next week. A man with many tattoos offers to set up a food collection box at the Habitat for Humanity store. He says that he also works at the Times Center and they often have too much food. I find great irony in taking food from a shelter to make food for the public. But if they don't need it and are willing to share, why not?

The bison breeder advises us to talk to the manager of various groceries in town about getting baked goods, he says they have to toss bread at a certain point and are willing to give it away for free. I feel embarassed asking the people we feed for advice on getting food but they are happy to give it and seem interested in sustaining the humble five to fifteen person gathering that has happened every Sunday for a couple of months now.

And that is something.

I cannot speak for the greater meaning of the Food Not Bombs movement or philosophy. In my book, B and I, we are Food not Bombs for cooking and giving the kid the bowl. The kid, he is Food Not Bombs for sitting under that tree in the rain with that bowl of food and sharing it. The guy with the tatoos is Food Not Bombs for coming out in the rain and eating and helping us collect food. The bison breeder, MR, MQ, all of us.

Food Not Bombs is five people sharing a fork and a big bowl of pasta under a tree.

Where the feeding of people is a good deed done to another. The sharing of food is reciprocal and reciprocally nourishing. It makes the world more abundant.

Let me tell you about my Sundays. My Sundays are spent chopping, baking, dishwashing, eating, transporting, and chatting with strangers who are my neighbors. I will bring umbrellas in case it rains and sweaters in case it's cold.

I brought home the leftover bit of pasta. Not bad, B, not bad at all

* added note and foolery: This weekend is the 25th anniversary of Food Not Bombs. We did not have a big to do to mark this event. We almost didn't have a to do at all. Almost. Do not lose hope. From the smallest acorn, a mighty oak.
Food Not Bombs: 25 years in the world - Still here in urbanana. *

1 comment:

Kat E said...

awesome story--very powerfully written. Keep up the good work :)