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Sustainable Sustenance

From CAS, 071510

This past weekend, the Sanctuary was New York’s most exclusive dining venue. White tablecloths were spread on large circular tables. A musical duo wove jazz through the tent’s supporting poles as wine glasses and cutlery were arranged. I setup a field kitchen in the next tent, and invited a solid volunteer corps to help.

As you probably know by now, I love to cook for people. One hundred diners equals one hundred times the love. So when I rang the dinner bells at 6:30, it was a sweet moment.

There was something even sweeter, however, about this meal. In two of the four courses, we were serving food that was grown right here in our own gardens. I don’t think I have to tell you how deeply satisfying that was.

The mixed lettuces that comprised the salad came from the first bed we planted this spring. I was amazed at the harvest, and how it was sufficient for so many people. The kale on the main plate also came from our beds. Mint in the water, likewise.

When I consider the cycle of small agriculture, I experience a warm and grounding feeling. It’s like this: Plant seeds in the soil you’ve nurtured. Harvest the leaves, pods, or fruit. Keep a bucket in the kitchen, wherein you place the trimmed ends or peeling. Take those trimmings out to the garden and start a compost pile. Mix that compost in to the soil. Plant seeds in the soil you’ve just nurtured.

At the dinner, of course there were a few plates with a dab of kale or a few sprouts left on them when they came back to the kitchen. No problem. I simply scraped those few scraps back into my compost bucket. Suddenly, every diner was participating in nourishing my soil. I can use that soil to nourish the diners at the next event.

I love this cycle. It’s an efficient, economical, ecological, sustainable, somewhat Taoist portrait of energy reversion. Nothing is wasted. The energy simply goes through multiple transformations, doing its magic at every stop. If you look at the cycle I described above, you’ll notice there’s really no beginning. You can join the movement at any point.

This peaceful sustainability is one of the most gratifying side benefits of a plant-based diet. There are no ugly waste products to hide or to disguise as clothing or furniture.

It can easily be reduced to a mantra: With every meal, return something to the soil. There is no need for loss. Where there is no loss, there is only life.

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