40 Days: Restoration

True learning is remembering.


Painting by Amy Judd.

There is a story that is told to demonstrate the abstract idea of wabi sabi to Westerners like myself who have the most tentative of grasps of the abstract concept.  Wabi sabi is finding beauty in nature, which I understand.  Wabi sabi is also finding beauty in age and use and imperfection and transience, which overturns everything I’ve ever had written into my mind by the culture that grew me.  The story goes like this:  there is a clay, handmade bowl that is a part of a person’s daily ritual of life.  The bowl breaks.  The person doesn’t throw the bowl away.  Instead, the person uses molten gold to mend the crack, and the bowl becomes even more beautiful in the eyes of person than it ever was before.


Microscopic section of one year old ash wood by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, 1632-1723.


Restoration is my favorite week of the 40 days, and not just because I’ve never made it this far before.  Restoration is my favorite because it is wabi sabi, it is the idea of taking something old and used and caring for it, not in spite of the use, but because of the use.  Restoration is to burnish and care for an old thing.  Something like a wooden floor, or painted dome ceiling, or a brick smokehouse, or yourself.

Photo by Sophie Munns. Recycled metal sculpture by Julie Tremblay.

Restoration allows us to see past the limitations of time.  Instead of being limited by a thing in the time frame of the present, restoration allows for a person to imagine all the layers of time and all the faces of the thing that have existed to make up the thing as it is today.  Restoration gives another dimension to reality because restoration acknowledges that the past played a role in the present.


“The past is never dead.  It isn’t even past.”

-good, old William Faulkner


The restoration of Aya Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.

I remembered something from my own past that I’m pretty sure led to this whole blog, writing about food in literature thing in myself.  It was this book, The Secret Garden Cookbook by Amy Cotler.  Reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel in middle school was formative enough, but creating the Victorian English recipes brought the book and the historical setting alive in a way that apparently changed me forever.

Flowers opening timelapse from David de los Santos Gil on Vimeo.

It must have been my junior or senior year of high school, circa 2002 or so, because I made the meal from this cookbook for my sister, my mom, and my future stepfather.  So it was after my mom kicked my dad out of the house and before I moved away to college.  I made the garden peas and fresh mint and the “sausage cakes” with fresh sage.  Surely, this meal was one of my very first experiences cooking with fresh herbs of any kind.  I also made the tattie broth.  The recipe called for butter or bacon grease to saute the onions in, and I remember using both, despite intense trepidation that accompanied walking off the path of the recipe instructions.  And I remember my warm satisfaction when I tasted richness of the tattie broth.

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