Appreciation “Sprouts” From Silence

Until last month, I’d never in my adult life had a meaningful encounter with a bean sprout. Usually, I wolf them down, a healthy afterthought crowning the spring mix. I hadn’t noticed the jauntiness of the leaves and the stems. Like most things, I’d caught them out of the corner of my eye, on the way to someplace else.

Our meeting occurred at a Buddhist meditation dinner. I’m no Buddhist, but I am highly curious. And I couldn’t resist test-driving the dinner in silence offered at a local church auction.

“Enjoy the textures, the flavors of the food,” suggested the convener. She went on to say that except for meditational readings, we would not be talking till dessert.

Enthusiastic at the prospect driving over, I believe I gulped upon arrival with the formal announcement of solitude.

Good grief, I thought. No conversation? No “Ed Show”? No “Hardball”? What to make of dinner with the TV pundits so blaringly absent? With no blip-blip of text messages? No jazzy rhythms from a cell?

To add to the challenge, we also had the option of eating with chopsticks, which would have allowed the less proficient among us to taste a single grain of rice at a time. I passed.

Eight others, with nothing to do but eat, were eight too many to be scrutinizing my ability to transport a square of tofu from plate to mouth.

Even as it was, I worried about the awkwardness of a meal filled only with shy smiles and downward looks. In truth, I looked forward to dessert with more than usual enthusiasm.

Somewhere in the silence, though, between the opening chime and dessert is where I met the leggy little bean sprout. It was dancing on top of the chopped salad, perky and large – just as the convener was instructing us to pay attention to the food. It was impossible not to.

Its tiny two-leaf presence yanked my arm and unexpectedly transported me back to my childhood in Georgia. Suddenly, I was pulling the white blossom off the honeysuckle vine and sucking the nectar. I was plucking a stem of grass and sucking out the chlorophyl as my little teeth chattered and dented the stem.
Like a child totally absorbed in one thing at a time, I was in touch with the food and nothing else.

At dessert, I was not alone in my amazement.

“Wow!” said the woman across from me. “I actually noticed what I was eating.”

“Did you notice the texture of the beans?” asked her husband.

“Absolutely,” she said.

“Beats eating a burger and driving,” added a guy at the end.

The evening rambled on to a sweet conclusion. If there was the usual talk about who does what for a living, I don’t remember it. Instead, we debated the secret ingredient in the vegan “egg salad,” which turned out to be fennel seeds from a plant alongside the garage.

Licorice-like, they’re reputed to extend one’s life, and I must admit I harvested a few on the way to the car. They sit on the kitchen counter, a handy snack.

Will they extend my life by years? Who knows. But an occasional meaningful encounter with one might do wonders for a single day.

Copyright 2010 Pat Snyder

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