On Nourishment & Peach Cobbler

by P. Braithwaite

I am making peach cobbler — Paula Deen’s peach cobbler. I am ignoring her penchant for calling black people n*ggers. Instead, I lay sticks of butter on my baking dish and nudge it into the oven. I mix flour, sugar, and one cup of milk. I throw in some cinnamon (a deviation from the recipe). I break out my whisk (I didn’t even know I had one), and whisk the batter into submission.

I’m proud of myself — no lumps.

I cut peaches. I do battle with peach pits. Bits of burgundy shell linger on peach slices. I extract them with the skill of a surgeon. Juice runs off the cutting board. Nectar sticks to my fingers. Eventually, I mix the butter with the batter and the peaches. It looks weird, but Deen assures me it’s normal. Don’t stir it ya’ll, or you’ll ruin the cobbler! To distract myself from the anxiety over whether my cobbler will rise, I busy myself by making whipped cream.

When it’s all done, I’m too satisfied to taste it.

During my silent retreat, lunch was a major highlight. Breakfast consisted of oatmeal and prunes; dinner was tea and all-you-can-eat fruit. Lunch was bountiful and all that really mattered. You sat, unable to make eye contact, and focused your attention on your meal. You let the tastes hit, tickle, and assault you. Even unpleasant items (like gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free cookies) were exciting. Textures mingle with your tongue and the insides of your mouth. You feel yourself getting full, but unable to stop eating. You realize the desperation of your actions – they way you long for the next bite before you’ve swallowed the last part.

I learned a lot about myself from eating quietly.

I’m learning to be quieter. I’m learning how to relate to the noise – the incessant noise. I’m learning to find peace amongst the noise in my head and the noise that comes from others. I’m struggling to realize that all the noise is the same. The most unnameable noises are reflections of my own demand.

I’m finding it all very hard.

I can’t say I enjoyed the silence. It was good for me, but I’m still a bit traumatized from the experience. With silence comes the ultimate task of knowing yourself. Who am I? Do the things that define me matter? Does the ugliness lurking in every corner, now uncovered, need to be stuffed back into its respective drawers? How do I continue down the roads I’ve started when my motivations are somewhat less than pure?

Loving yourself WHILE knowing yourself is hard business…

I’ve been eating peach cobbler for breakfast every morning. I’ve been looking up new recipes – new ways to nourish myself. There are new tastes to savor, and new sensations wash over me. I’m looking for new ways to love myself. What I do know is that nourishment, lasting nourishment, must come from oneself. No one can feed you forever. No one can make you believe that you’re better than you think you are. There is only so much of our own emotional nutrition that we can export, outsource or disavow. We are responsible for the self that lingers in the silence. We must learn to accept and nourish the selves within. Whether with peach cobbler, recipes from racists chefs, or 10-day silent retreats: our journey is completely our own. Recipes help, but we must make the meals. We must learn to gather our own ingredients, cook in our own kitchens and, eventually, eat on our own plates.

I’m trying to learn how to love the process.
I’m trying to learn to enjoy the taste.