I don't know how many times I've moaned "I can't believe I forgot my camera!" or "I wish I could take good pictures." For many years, I've admired photographers (like my amazing friends Michele, Midori, and Jennifer) and how they capture the flurry of life, but had given up on being able to approximate it in any way. Though I'll likely not master the art like them, it turns out food is the subject I've been waiting for my whole life. And carrying my camera around everywhere is making me a more grateful person.
Since getting my new camera and starting this blog, I'm permanently on the lookout for little things to capture--moments alone with coffee, the kids playing, and, of course, my never-ending fascination with food in all its variance and bounty. When I sit down at night to download photos, it's a can't-miss reminder of how good my life is, how many things there are to be thankful for. As Jane Kenyon says, at any moment it could be otherwise, but I hope cultivating gratitude might help me weather those times when they come.
It took about ten seconds to come up with the name of this blog--In Praise of Leftovers. I didn't think about it at all. That's probably good, because if I don't make quick decisions about stuff like that, I get stuck and ruminate forever. Since then, I've been thinking a lot about how I want to be the sort of person who praises things. There's cynicism aplenty in the world (including my own) and it's really not hard to contribute things in that vein. I'm reminded of what C.S. Lewis says about praising in his book Reflections on the Psalms:
The humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least...except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible...I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.
I just love that. When I think about people I admire most in the world, it's the ones who are always finding things to praise. That doesn't mean they're not realists. In fact, they are often the ones most in touch with pain and suffering. That's the great paradox. If we aren't willing to really experience the lows, we don't get the highs either.
I met someone at Erika's party last night who completely embodied this idea of praise and inner health. Her name is Jessica, and she and her husband Ben were the deejays at the party. We ended up in the kitchen a lot together, mostly because she came back so many times to compliment the food or pass along comments she had eavesdropped on. She said, "If I had made all this food, I'd want to know what people were saying about it!" Everything about her exuded warmth, enthusiasm, and openness. It seems rare to meet people like her because we're all so concerned about our own image maintenance that we don't have the bandwidth to devote to noticing or praising other people. Thank you, Jessica. You joked about us coming over to cook dinner for you, but I hope it happens.
Back to praising cameras--I'm grateful tonight to have made it through another week, for two healthy (and sleeping!) children, for a warm weekend, and for the way my camera helps me see everything with new eyes. Thank you for following along. As you know, I live for your comments.
P.S. Angie, you commented in the Dara's Oven-Dried Tomatoes posting, wondering what to do with leftover tomato puree. I've got something for you. It's coming tomorrow.