I never fully appreciated how much my mental health benefited from the simple act of shopping for fresh ingredients. Practicing a “zero waste” lifestyle over the past few years had educated and trained me into only buying what I needed in the most limited amount of packaging possible. As one imagines, pretty much all of that thinking has been quickly abandoned. Gone are the days of dropping into the store, or the farmer’s market to pick up fresh herbs or seasonal vegetables. Our new reality is to buy a little extra and use what we have on hand, which means our pantry is the fullest its been in over two years.
However, it has brought up reminders of familial anecdotes about my great-grandmother, Barcita. She was an amazing baker and home cook and fled Lebanon when she was a young woman. She was born during the Ottoman occupation and lived through the Great Famine of Mount Lebanon which had to have a significant impact on her abilities in the kitchen.
Although she passed away when I was young, her legend loomed large in my life. All of the amazing cooks and bakers in my family were her students and stories of her culinary prowess were always the topic of conversation. She never let anything go to waste, she always kept her hands busy with peeling, cutting, shelling, or crushing whatever ingredient needed it. She could open an empty pantry and make the most amazing meal from nothing. She was generous with her cooking and would have dinner ready to go before breakfast began. She was a force to be reckoned with and kept everyone well fed and well loved.
It’s these stories and memories that keep me going and remind me that although I don’t yet have her abilities in the kitchen, I too can keep my hands busy in the same way to make something out of nothing. I can open the unusually full pantry and find inspiration by channeling Barcita.