I remember when friends of mine were taking college courses on anatomy and physiology (A & P). They would talk about feeling overwhelmed by all the muscle groups, anatomical structures, etc. I am sure that learning all the seasonings and spices and variations of them does not compare in complexity to what they were learning, however, by the time I was done reading the section on seasonings in Deborah Madison’s book I felt overwhelmed. I knew there were different kinds of salts, peppers, vinegars, and oils, etc. However, reading about each of them, the variety of herbs and spices, nuts, and the variety of ways in which one could make breadcrumbs and croutons and tortilla chips was making my head spin. Each piece of information I read was important for me to know. I learned about all the chemicals that are in food that I had never stopped to think about before, like bottled lemon and lime juices. I learned that the way in which some foods say they are produced could be misrepresentative, such as shelled nuts, which say they are roasted, but are really fried.
As I finished reading this last “educational” section of her book, I found myself wondering what the spiritual lesson in all this was for me. I am at this place in my life where I am seeking the spiritual in everything. The whole process of learning about, planning, preparing, serving, and even cleaning up afterwards has become a spiritual experience for me. I can remember a time when I would go with what was quicker and more convenient, like bottled lemon or lime juices. The past few weeks, however, I have moved farther away from the convenience and journeyed back to fresh lemons and limes, which bring so much life to everything, including water. I never realized how much of a difference there was between the fresh and the bottled. It is amazing how quickly we become used to products that have diminished or altered flavor and seasoning.
It was as I was sitting here reflecting on all that I had read, that I found myself thinking about a scripture in Ecclesiastes 3 which says 1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. For each seasoning, herb, oil, and spice there is a time to plant, and a time to harvest it. There is a time to harvest the peppercorns if you want them to be green, a time to harvest them if you want black ones, and a time to harvest them and a process to go through if you want white peppercorns. There is a time for every spice and every season, with which we have been blessed. Some are best dried, others fresh. Some go best with summer vegetables and others with winter vegetables. For everything, there is a season under heaven.
While there is a time for all to come into fruition, there is also a time for them to be discarded. Dried spices and herbs have their season and once they have outlasted their season, they no longer carry the seasoning potential they once did and need to be buried in their bottles. Oils can go rancid if not kept cool, dry, and dark. While some have longer seasons then others, we need to be mindful of when it is time for them to die or be replaced. Some things are given a second life. They have a second season in our pantry. Dried bread can be transformed into breadcrumbs and croutons. Dried out tortillas can be transformed into chips and strips. However, even these have their season.
As we plan and prepare our foods, may we be mindful to remember that for everything there is a season, a time to purchase, a time to use, and a time to say this is no longer healthy for me or those I love.