How to Have Heart
September 28, 2011
“A complete lack of caution is perhaps one of the true signs of real gourmet: he has no need for it, being filled, as he is, with a God-given and intelligently self-cultivated sense of gastronomic freedom.” –MFK Fisher
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” —Buddha
I’ve not been posting as much as I’d like to, lately, which is largely because of the demands on my time from being full time at school and working almost full time at the restaurant. Perhaps the main reason I haven’t updated in a while, though, is that I’m working on some big and exciting things for the blog (two recipes) that have been consuming a lot of my time, but, after several weeks of tweaking, are almost ready for publication. So heads up on that. All of that being said, I’ve had a lot going on both food-wise and musings-wise, so this post is my attempt to start tackling both of those things.
Recently, my cowpool came in, so I’ve been swimming in excellent, grass-fed, organic beef of all cuts and varieties, and I’ve learned a few things from the whole experience. For example: filet mignon rubbed with pepper, roasted garlic, and then wrapped in prosciutto and seared just until the prosciutto crisps (and the steak remains very rare) is one of the greatest treats a paleo foodie will ever get to experience (pair with a good dry red, preferably Italian). But it’s gotten me thinking on a more philosophical note as well.
Along with the standard roasts, steaks, and so on, I got several organ meats from the cow. I, like many Americans, have never had much, if any, exposure to organ meat, but, being equal parts foodie and caveman, I was game to try it. That’s the part where I differ from most Americans, or at least, most Americans I know. By and large, the response I’ve gotten to eating heart was one of, if not outright revulsion, then whatever is a shade milder than disgust. I got this reaction from people who, like me, had NEVER HAD IT BEFORE. In all of this, though, my friend Jason proved to be the beacon of hope, and the inspiration for the quote from MFK Fisher that I’m featuring today.
Jason is by no means paleo/primal, nor is he by any means committed to eating only whole, unprocessed foods. His only benchmark (that I can tell) is “does it taste good?” In that spirit, when he heard I was making jerky out of beef heart, he eagerly exclaimed “I’ve never had heart before! Can I try it?”
I was really impressed with his willingness to step out of not only the box of his own experience, but the box of societal convention and expectation as well. Heck, willingness doesn’t cover it. Genuine excitement. For him, the prospect of a new taste, a new flavor, was enough to banish concern about novelty and replace it with anticipation. Isn’t that an attitude we could all stand to cultivate a little bit more in our daily lives? How would your life be different if you faced the new and the unknown with excitement instead of fear or concern?
I know that living a primal life – one based on simplicity, health, and a deep connection to community and the earth – has really helped cultivate this attitude in me. Things that once frightened me no longer do. They still exhilarate me, but in a positive way, not a negative one. I find myself more and more eager to help those around me, to try new things, to widen my field of view, because, as the Buddha said, we become what we think. Or, more colloquially, as my grandfather used to say “ACT ENTHUSIASTIC and you will BE ENTHUSIASTIC!” So there it is, my challenge to you: over the next week or two, pay attention to moments in your life when you’re faced with something new, and what your reaction is. If it isn’t excitement or curiosity, ask yourself why not. Then, tell yourself that it is an exciting, new opportunity. Make yourself believe it, and then see how you feel. It’s a small miracle that each of us can perform every day.
I want to hear your thoughts on enthusiasm. What kinds of things make you apprehensive? If you take on the challenge for the week, report back on how it goes!