Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Last weekend my wife and I actually went out to dinner without the children.  The older ones were at a sleepover and the younger one was semi-safely ensconced at the YMCA "Parent's Night Out" kid corral.  We walked a couple of blocks from the Y and went to a "Pre-Columbian Mexican" restaurant that is a dedicated part of the slow food movement.  It even had a slow-food decorative motif...snails...on the walls and windows.  The snail is slow food's international symbol.  Did I mention that the movement was started by the French?

The food (we had the cactus) was fantastic!  We will go again without the children.  It is a bit pricey for our particular tax bracket, but folks seemed friendly and there were other families with children around so if you have the means, go for the family theme.  Of course, the concept isn't for everybody.  It takes a lot of patience, something we don't always have a lot of practice at. The folks next to us, for example, were less than pleased by the pace of the service (it is slow, which they warn you about when you sit down) and weren't so sure about many of the dishes (which were traditional and new to us Burbanians).  I also chafed at moments, but then I would look at the snail and remind myself that this, in fact, was the point of being there...slowing down.

Slowness is something that I do not do well.  Many people do it even worse.  We are not rewarded for being slow.  We are impatient with each other and so we are rewarded for being prompt, convenient, even early.  The tortoise may win that famous race, but we really wish we were the hare.  Actually we wish we were a smarter hare who figured out how to crush that tortoise while winning fame for our greatness and wealth for our multi-tasking.  Let's face it.  We tell the kids about the tortoise but we don't expect them to follow his example so much.  Grown-ups don't, so it would be hypocrisy to tell kids to...right?  Sometimes being an adult is about looking busy, rushing about with a cellphone in our ear and a determined look on our faces.  It is the sign of success for many and slowness gets judged.  To practice slowness is to fly in the face of the Burbanian culture, which is not an easy thing to do.

Part of my goal this year is to become slower at things.  Perhaps by doing so I can experience life at a pace that enables reflection.  It is part of the "sabbath" dimension of my sabbatical-not-yet-begun.  Of course, I am somewhat prepared.  I compost.  Composting is very, very slow.  I garden...also slow.  I brew beer.  It can takes weeks or months to make a proper beer!   I use dry beans. With each of these, though, there is a trade-off.  There are things that do not get done.  Is that OK?  Sometimes yes and sometimes no.  Another challenge when we try to reclaim slowness is that we must also reclaim certain values that have been sacrificed to our need for speed.  I am learning what those are for me (see the previous post on "stuff").  What are they for you?

I made a beer today.  I also worked.  The work I did (I hope!) benefited from the pace my brewing set.  Everything is timed and measured.  Everything has its place.  This is how slowness (and slow-food) helped me write that doctoral paper.  Perhaps it will continue to help.  Maybe it will help you.

I am making a farmhouse ale (or more accurately a "parsonage ale").  It can be be fermented hot.  I added some saaz hops along with some older pellets of dubious origin.  I put in some coriander seeds that grew in my garden (itself a months-long process).  I pitched the  yeast.  I carried it upstairs to the spare bedroom where it sits with the lid off and the windows open, wafting in the humid air of a hot Burbanian day in Eastern Massachusetts.  There is a baseball game going on outside.  Perhaps the sound will somehow be picked up by the fermentation as well.  Maybe when it is done--a month from now when we will be swinging for the stands at church--I will reflect back on this day and it will have been worth the wait.

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