About 5 hours before this parsley was in my first-ever batch of hummus, it was in the UAC's organic garden. Students plant it, manage it, harvest it, and sell its produce -- even during vacation. (Classes start here next Tuesday, 14 Febrero. Ooh, I just found out today that I'll be teaching English II to 9th semester Pedagogy students. And advanced classes nightly to students and faculty as well. And probably a section or two at the local high school.)
We bought an embarrassment of veggies -- broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, leeks, chili peppers, swiss chard, basil and lettuce -- for 30 Bolivianos. Less than $US4. And good. Fresh and lively and simple and flavorful. Our big kitchen in the volunteer house was swarming with activity as we all indulged in the food fantasies (a favorite topic, naturally) we can realize with this new bounty.
And, since I had the foresight to soak some garbanzo beans the night before, I could take a stab at the aforementioned hummus. (Thank goodness Becky Monnens had augmented her excellent advice for life in Carmen Pampa with a small shopping list, including tahini.) But why did none of you hummus-makers prepare me for the FULL HOUR of mashing I would have to do? Cousins Stephanie and Jared, this means you! And I won't hear any nonsense about a blender.
Anyway, the meal was delicious. Imbued with the kind of goodness that comes from student-grown local organic produce, to say nothing of the happy chatter of pre-semester expectations and plans. To wash down our avocado-tomato-cucumber salad and broccoli-tofu-stirfry with local beer made it all the better.
We know we won't always have time to savor our meals once the semester starts. And we know the beer may accompany whining as often as it accompanies food (just today I had to agitate for 4-times-a-week classes instead of a single weekly 4-hour block, for example). But I hope we also know that food is always more than just fuel. It's the hopes and worries of farmers, the attention and expertise of gardeners, the personal histories and quirky preferences of each cook. And it's the stories that only get told around kitchen tables. It's communion.
And -- just to keep this from getting too philosophical -- it's also the raw material for poor Hannah's diarrhea. (You can be grateful I didn't even consider photographing that.)