While I certainly understand why many die-hard enviros decry the frippery and willful ignorance surrounding Earth Day, it’s hard to feel jaded when I’m filled with such profound joy and gratitude for living on this beautiful rock.
In particular, the simple notion of gift-sharing in a community has helped me to re-envision the environmental movement as more than a fruitless gesture within a hopelessly rigid sociopolitical matrix. This very old notion has recently been popularized by author Charles Eisenstein. Non-monetized exchanges of gifts can be a powerful (and, notably, non-violent) way to hasten the dissolution of our pernicious and intensely profit-driven economic system. What’s more, replacing previously commodified social relationships with gift exchanges serves as a way to connect us more deeply to each other and to better understand the world’s abundance.
Foraging for nettles at this time of year probably gives me an inflated sense of abundance, as if the gravy train of year-round veggies from California were somehow hijacked, I’d still meet my RDI of calcium and iron. Even though the idea of the “gift economy” encompasses way more than counting one’s blessings, it somehow seems fitting to acknowledge a few recent gives/receives on my recent docket:
- Phone-coaching a family member through a frustrating computer issue.
- Having someone encourage me to question the reasons behind my deep-seated dietary beliefs, and helping me to realize that it’s uncommonly healthy to express when I’m uncertain.
- Co-choreographing a belly dance routine with performers who trust one another’s creative instincts.
- Being offered kind words (and an origami crane) by two strangers when having a publicly emotional moment.
- Cooking and sharing a better-than-a-restaurant meal with two exceptional birds.
Wild stinging nettle barley risotto
Very, very closely based on this Holy Cow Vegan recipe by Vaishali (i.e. almost plagiarized). Makes 6-7 servings.
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 large onion
- 3-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 cups pearl barley
- 1 cup white wine
- 8-10 cups hot veggie stock (please stay tuned for a post on dumpster-diving and veggie stock).
- 1.5 cups sliced brown (crimini) mushrooms
- 1.5 cups sliced oyster mushrooms
- 1 bunch parsley, minced
- 1 large bunch chives, finely chopped
- 2 packed cups stinging nettle, chopped
- 3 Tbsp miso
- Salt and pepper
In a large cooking pot, heat the canola oil and saute the onions and garlic on medium-low heat for a few minutes, or until translucent. Add the mushrooms, and saute for 2-3 minutes before adding the barley. Stir for another minute.
Increase the heat slightly and add the wine, stirring until the barley has absorbed nearly all of the liquid. Stir in 1/2 cup of veggie stock at a time, waiting until the liquid has been absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup-full. This will take about 60 minutes.
For the final 1/2 cup of veggie stock, whisk the miso into the stock before pouring. Add the parsley, chives, stinging nettle, salt and pepper, and cook on low heat until the nettles have just wilted.
Garnish with chives.