Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 165: "Who Helped Me Know What I Know?"

The Japanese practice known as Naikan (pronounced like the camera) is a way of getting a fresh perspective on things.  This lens invites us to notice how we are being supported by others.  It turns the image of the "self made person" on its ear and focuses on finding all the ways that others actions make our own lives possible.  Naikan ( or asking three questions, "What have I received, what have I given, and what trouble have I caused?") has a variety of applications.  In a class a few years ago I introduced this exercise which comes from Naikan. . 

  "Who Helped Me Know What I Know?"
Pick a talent that you have or a hobby that you are good at.  Then begin listing the names of all of those who helped you, taught you, or facilitated your understanding of that subject.  This may include people who you don't know personally, but whose work contributed to your knowledge. 

I chose cooking as my talent and hobby and started to think of those who have helped me to become the cook that I am.  Here goes:  My mother taught me to be a hostess and to set a table for others.  She also taught me how to cook pinto beans and make spaghetti sauce.  Josephine Landor, a dear friend, taught me how to wash vegetables when they come into the kitchen and put them in containers with a paper towel to absorb the moisture.  The lettuce was always crispy fresh to make a salad.  Jo taught me how to make a "back out dinner"  backing out leftovers in the fridge and turning them into an attractive meal.  She taught me how to dress a salad properly, not drenching it.  My Granny Ryan was the first woman in a kitchen that I remember.  She  always wore an apron to cook and filled the house with great smells.  Years later, Dalla Brown taught me how to make soup out of anything.  She also taught me about using up every single item (if it hadn't gone bad) in the fridge to honor the food we have been given.  I learned how to make scones from Dalla.  She would flatten out a large circle and cut wedges to form triangular scones.  And, then I am indebted to the writers of cookbooks, especially to Ed Brown, Molly Katzen and Irma Rombauer who wrote the JOY OF COOKING.  I am indebted to the countless cooks who took the time to write down a recipe and share it (on a 3X5 card, on their blogs, on the internet, in family cookbooks.)  I could not be a cook if it wasn't for the inventor and manufacturer of my Viking Range and cooktops.  Also, my cooking comes from having fresh ingredients which I am able to buy at our local Famers's Market in Half Moon Bay.  To all the farmers who get up before light to bring their produce and goods to the market, I am in your debt.  And, I am a cook thanks to the generous and appreciative palate of my husband, Ron.  Over the past twenty years he has eaten with relish everything I've ever put in front of him.  He compliments me and he always cleans up the kitchen.  His work supports my cooking.  And, while I'm thinking of it, Ron built the kitchen that I am working in, designed the cabinets, varnished the wood floor, and maintains the plumbing which brings water to the kitchen and takes away waste.  He also maintains the compost.

You may want to try this exercise.  Pick a talent and list those who helped you to become what you have become.

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