If you stay in one place long enough, you get to understand what being a part of community looks like.
But it doesn’t come easily.
Yesterday, I shared experiences from the homeless street kid drop-in center, the Living Room. At one point, this community of people were my core group, along with my fellow graduate students in Marin. Each of us has circles of influence and where we can be influencer. One of my grad school professors used the term oikos, Greek for “house.” I like to think of it as the ripple effect- you touch someone else’s life who then touches someone else’s life and on it goes. Each of us has something to contribute; each of us has something to learn.
Did you ever read the children’s book, “Stone Soup?” In preparation for a holiday being celebrated at the Living Room, Linda B, Eric’s wife asked us to think about this story- the simple bringing what you have to the table to make a meal. Much later, when I was volunteering at a Wednesday night dinner for the homeless drop-in at a local church, this idea came up again.
While the people frequenting the dinner may not have much, they were asked to contribute what they could for the meal. A quarter was dropped into the bucket, a dollar. People in the long line brought some of themselves to the table on Wednesday nights and were fed a healthy meal with the important dash of conversation.
Where does this happen for you? How do you seek to ingratiate yourself into your community? And perhaps the more difficult question- how can you be the change you wish to see in the world, first in your own community?
These days, community- my village as it were, takes on a different flavor: I’m talking about that beloved bus driver who will stop one block away from his regular stop because he knows I will miss the morning bus in the early commute to work. I’m referencing the regular faces of neighborhood people who now see me and think, “familiar.” I’m including a lively and personable landlord who invites me and Mama in for tea and a chat.
who is your neighbor? And if we are mandated to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves“, how is this put into practice? Our friends may be scattered around the city and well beyond its periphery, but we are carving our niche here, in this city by the Bay.and I discussed this love affair we have with our neighborhood, its environs and the people who make it dear to us the other day. He has befriended several homeless in our neighborhood and I have begun thinking about what our responsibility looks like to care for them. It begs the question-
Over the years, I’ve learned about this city of transients. If Los Angeles is the city of angels, ours is the city of misfits and wayward wanderers, of artists and patrons. Friend after friend have graduated and moved away or another strain of that verse similar to the first have gotten married and moved or had a baby and moved. I kind of feel like the lifers in this city are a rare breed indeed. After a while, you become more resilient to spackling the holes left by friends who have moved away. It’s part of dwelling in San Francisco and we’ve admittedly gotten used to it.
But here’s the thing I love about the 7 miles by 7 miles of land in which I reside. This is so much more of a small town than bustling big city, although that identity too exists. Crafting a life for yourself here, can be downright hard in the beginning. Community doesn’t happen over night and takes care, time and effort- much like tending a garden. The degrees of separation are minimized in a small space where that nagging question, “who is my neighbor” really provides a spectrum of responses.
Then there are days like Saturday.
We woke up late and I hopped on two busses to get down to the Embarcadero for the bustling Farmer’s Market. My former roommate and friend Carole had once told me her secret is go early and leave early. I toted along a deep canvas bag and had prepared a mental list of what was required to bake a Village Pie.
First stop included picking out the Swiss Chard and Lacinato Kale. Surprisingly this also involved a hello with Chef David Bazirgan of Fifth Floor, one of the chefs I interviewed earlier this year for Taste of the Nation. Then, on to look at squashes, at chamomile tea in jars and stumble upon Chef Staffan Terje of Perbacco, another contact from Taste. I eyed the horseradish root and almost jumped for joy at Brothers and Daughters sprouts, both from learning more about his Sunflower sprouts and Chipotle Sprouted Chickpea Hummus along with running into Ravi, chef of Prospect and a friend through my friendship with his family.
Dashing down the corridor past the Far West Fungi, Sylvia, another acquaintance from Taste of the Nation and a friend were perusing the market. We caught up on food blogs and food made- truffle macaroni and cheese for her, this Village Pie that continued to grow in scope in my mind for me.
While exiting the market, walking my way was Sean, a food blogger friend. We stood and talked for a while, sharing tips on kicking sugar to the curb and the awesome online community that is his Punk Domestics before I headed home.
Sunday involved a walk to a neighboring park where we unexpectedly ran into Carole, my former roommate. Beck talked Godzilla with her grandson while she and I caught up. Later in the day, I meandered down to my favorite bookstore to pick up a copy of a book Beck and I are reading in tandem. As I was walking back, from the patio of a nearby bar, I heard my name, tentatively, “Annelies?”
Rita, an acquaintance from a chef friend who traded San Francisco for New York stood there smoking and gabbing with her boyfriend Matt and friend. Matt spied the book in my hands and immediately, he, his friend and I hit it off. Rita and I agreed we must meet up for drinks soon.
I draw this line through the city and then through my neighborhood to underscore what I love about living here. It takes a village. It takes community. It takes pushing up your shirtsleeves to get to know the people around you and to be known. When I die, I want my epitaph to read, “she loved well.” And I think that really starts with investing in people and helping inspire, nurture and sustain community wherever you are. It’s worth the effort.
Lest you think this a quiche, oh no. This is the sassy cousin of Spanakopita and it sure is cheesy. You could always try using 4 oz. feta and add another cup of kale if you’re looking for something less cheesy. This pie is inspired by the Village Pie from my favorite Mediterranean restaurant in Baltimore, The Black Olive. Mine is pretty different- the addition of toasted almonds and kale among some taste tweaks made, but this is my attempt to recreate this hearty unforgettable pie.
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 small leeks, rinsed and sliced
- 2 cups kale, de-ribbed and chopped
- 2 cups Swiss Chard, de-ribbed and chopped
- 2 cups Spinach leaves, rinsed
- 3 T olive oil
- 2 T dill
- 1 T freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 3/4 cup Iberico sheep’s milk cheese, grated
- 6 oz. crumbled feta
- 3 eggs beaten
- pre-made whole wheat pie crust
- 1/4 cup raw almonds, chopped coarsely
1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large pan, add the olive oil. Turn the burner onto medium high heat.
3. Saute the onion, leek and garlic mixture until brown, about eight minutes.
4. Add dill to onion mixture and stir in. Then add the kale, Swiss chard and spinach. Stir for 3 minutes. Turn off the burner and let sit.
5. Beat the eggs. In a small bowl, mix the cheeses and then add the beaten egg to the cheeses. Stir until coated.
6. Add the greens to the cheese mixture and stir a few times, to incorporate the ingredients.
7. Then pour filling into the whole wheat pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until pie is set.
8. While pie is baking toast the chopped almonds and add to the pie top after you pull it out of the oven.
~Makes 8 servings
NOTE: We served this with a simple Tomato Basil Bisque, but it would be good with a lightly dressed salad with lemon as the dressing as well.