As I noted in an earlier post, in this Lenten discipline I’ve been struck by how much power and privilege I have. Friday’s dinner (actually it was Monday’s) again underscored how this fast is a choice, and not necessarily the best one (I’ll say more about that in a bit).
So, to recap, I thumbed through the Food for Life cookbook put out by LWF and found a recipe for a dish from Sudan called Bamia. I picked the dish because it looked relatively quick and easy and I liked the idea of eating in solidarity with the Sudanese. Great idea, right?

I called the local Whole Foods to see if they sold okra, the key ingredient. They told me that they had just received a shipment, but that it arrived in bad shape so they just threw it all away. Problem one: okra does not grow in northern Illinois in the winter (does it ever?) so it was probably flown in from South America or something, thus violating a major rule of eating locally. Problem two: I am participating in the industrial food complex, and the okra I was seeking fell victim. How much of the vegetable had the Whole Foods received from who knows where before they promptly tossed it out?

I was not to be deterred, so I called the next closest Whole Foods, and apparently their shipment had received better care. They held two pounds of okra for me and I picked it up on my way home from work.

The recipe called for one kilogram of okra. That’s a lot of okra. As I began preparing the dish, I realized I had way too much (I think the recipe should call for one pound). So I only cooked half of what I had purchased. Problem three: I bought way too much of an exotic (at least to me) vegetable than I could ever use.

As I was cutting the okra, I realized that Bamia was probably not a dish for me. Being somewhat of a rookie vegetarian, I had never eaten okra before. I did not know that it was so, well… slimy (maybe that’s why it’s fried in the south?). So I began cooking as directed and the dish only got slimier and slimier.

img_2419-754623 I continued cooking until the dish was ready. I served with rice as suggested and attempted to eat in solidarity with the Sudanese. The dish was rather bland (and, in case you forgot, slimy). I choked down as many bites as I could, all the while trying to remember those who have fewer food choices (or no choices at all). Which leads me to problem four: I could not eat all the food that I had prepared.

To summarize the waste: one Whole Foods store simply tossed a whole shipment of okra, I purchased too much okra, and I could not finish the okra I had prepared. That’s a whole lot of waste for a small dish that I could not finish (because I knew that I had other food choices).

Which brings me to my reflection on intentional living. I am a big fan of living purposefully, especially when it will be to the benefit of those who are poor and hungry. In some ways, this one experience underscores for me how careful we must be when we are making our food choices: even ostensibly good choices can have negative ramifications, especially when they are not completely thought through.

On a related note, my meat fast has led to another conflict in my eating habits–I used to finish whatever my son would not eat because I hate wasting food. Because I am not eating meat through Lent but my son is, I have thrown away more food in the last two weeks than I am comfortable with.

So what to do? I will continue with the fast (mostly because I like to finish what I start and I do think that some good reflection and experiences are coming from it), but I will be much more thoughtful about how I carry it out. And I’m pretty sure I won’t have any more okra.

How’s your Lenten discipline going? Let us know in the notes or email me personally. Also, if you have a recipe for a great veggie dish, I’d love to hear about it (please no okra).

David Creech