I had met Eva during the summer of 2012 at a community gardening event in San Antonio. We were looking at Okra plants ripe with youth, ready to burst with the vegetables. “I love okra” both us said in unison and laughed. “I love eating them raw, especially when they are tender and they can be cooked in so many different ways”, I continued. She had that surprised look on her face. “Yes indeed”, I said. As we parted company for the day we exchanged email ids
FF to summer 2013. Eva invites me suggesting that we meet so that she and her friends could use new techniques to flavor Okra and enhance their taste buds; they had collected 5lbs of fresh tender ones in anticipation. We meet. Chop. Discuss. Have conversations. Break Okra tips. Cook. Taste. Bake. Enjoy. Learn.
Here is how I viewed that 3 hours of time we spent. In retrospect it was all about leadership, community, willingness to learn and adaptation.
Lessons learnt –
Leadership and community: Eva had a need to know more. Learn. She was hooked. The nagging thought of wanting to use Okra in new ways was tempting. She also knew that there would be a delay, she needed to wait for one more year until they harvest fresh ones. She took the initiative to talk to her fellow community gardeners, inspire them and gather them. She held on to the small piece of paper that had my email id and phone number. She had also gotten hooked to eating fresh tender okras.
Change: All of us involved had new insights that day. For those 3 hours I may have been the Okra expert, but that did not make an expert on life or about everything else. As I showed them how to roast and pound spices, they showed me new ways of utensils care. I learnt more about their life styles, with understanding and sensitivity. Every conversation we had, had a history, an anectode, a tale. We gathered around an suburban kitchen table like girl scouts in a campfire, exchanging stories and drinking hot chocolate.
New ways of thinking: What we wrote down were not recipes that had to be strictly followed. But rather a few guidelines to cook Okra. We may have cooked a few dishes. But we had learnt enough to go forward and experiment with different spices, different vegetables, and make dishes with what was available that day. We just expanded our thinking quite casually on a saturday morning, without even having a deliberate intention of changing our perspectives. We only had a need to try something new; and meet new people. And of course, get out of bed early!
We also had some interesting perspectives about change, feedback and systems. I will blog about these soon.