Monday, June 21, 2010

Sacred Service and Homemade Granola

The word service has gotten a bad rap these last few decades. In the modern western culture we’ve been conditioned to think that being of service to someone means that we’re performing a menial task or taking on a powerless position. The bulk of people in the service industry these days work long hours in undesirable conditions, are paid very little, and are generally viewed as second class citizens. When was the last time you were overcome with gratitude and awe for the fast food cook or the maid at a cheap motel?

Service was not always viewed this way. In some cultures, being of service is a sacred act. Not just an act, either. To give of your time and energy is a form of communication. It says to the person you are serving that you are glad to know and be with them, and that you appreciate what they contribute to your life. In a capitalist system, the served shows their appreciation for the service with money. The more valuable they deem the service, the more money they give. When living in community, service happens in both large and small ways every day. In a healthy community, where everyone recognizes the importance of being of service to each other, this tends to even itself out.

Here at the ETC, the opportunities to be of service abound. Today we’re focusing on the kitchen. The kitchen is a powerful place in a house. It provides for the sustenance needs of the family or, in our case, community. At its best, cooking for those around you is an amazing act of love. It is also an opportunity to abandon the worries of the day, and to just be in the moment. When preparing food for yourself or others, let the rest of the day go and just be there with the process. It shows respect for the people who will eat the meal (even if it’s just yourself) and respect for the food itself.

The food that you eat, whether it be organic produce or a fast food burger, all comes from the same place; the Earth. The choices we make when we obtain and prepare food are direct lines of communication to our planet. Becoming conscious of what you are communicating with those choices is an easy first step towards living a sustainable life.

Take, for instance, granola. Granola was once viewed as the ultimate hippy-dippy, cardboard tasting, health food. When made from bulk foods, its preparation takes little time or effort. That little effort rewards you with a low impact, healthy, portable snack. As people became more focused on eating healthily, but were still buying into the idea that preparing food is a time consuming, menial task, large food corporations jumped on granola as a way to make money. Now, people with the good intentions of eating more healthily buy trucked in cardboard boxes full of individually wrapped snack food bars full of preservatives and just as much sugar as a candy bar. They think that they are doing a good thing, but they are actually doing themselves and the planet a great disservice.

The granola bars you probably buy at your local grocery are not only full of stuff you body doesn’t need, it’s carbon footprint is huge. The agricultural system its ingredients came from is killing our nation’s tradition of small farmers, it’s packaged without thought to reducing waste, and it deprives us of the opportunity to discover how rewarding preparing your own food from local or bulk foods can be.

So, here at the ETC we took the time one afternoon to make ourselves a batch of the crunchy goodness. Here's the recipe:

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
1/4 cup safflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 chopped dates
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients except dried fruit.
3. In another bowl, mix all wet ingredients.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix thoroughly, coating the oats and seeds.
5. Spread the granola in an oiled, shallow baking pan. Bake for ten minutes, stir the granola with a spatula, then bake another ten minutes.
6. Remove granola from the oven and stir in the dried fruit.

Granola crisps as it cools, and has many applications other than a cold cereal or snack. It makes a great topping for oatmeal or ice cream. We've also discovered that it's great to sprinkle over home made muffins just before you put them in the oven to bake. Yum!

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