I looked at my salad and saw dirt-stained hands planting, tending, picking, sorting and selling lettuce and herbs. Dirt scuffed under heavy boots, along long dark rows of disked soil. The air was pungent with bruised plants and dampness.
I heard low murmured voices talking about the weather, the sale at Target, the cost of gas as the cheese was made in long steel bins, fragrant with rennet and warm milk.
I listened to the sound of pigs grunting and gates clicking closed, dogs barking and cattle lowing as they ripped green grass and munched it between strong grinding teeth. I heard the harsh sounds of animals loaded into trucks and men shouting, shoving them forward, fearful and nervous.
I heard rain pattering down on brown earth and the snapping of stems as strong hands moved rapidly through tomato vines and sent the small grape-like tomatoes to containers lying by.
I watched a potter shaping clay on a wheel spinning before her, pushing with curved wet palms against the slick pale lump and the same hands dipping the bisqued platter into a white vat of liquid glaze, the roaring of the kiln with flame in its heart burning at 2,000 degrees for hours on end.
I heard the clash and shout of a factory where the fork was stamped from long panes of stainless steel. I heard saws and sanders, smelled glue and pine dust in the factory where the table was formed.
I sat at my table with the assembled things before me and thought of the effort of many people who had worked in unknown places at unseen jobs where their hands moved over and under, around the things I was to eat and be nourished by.
Of all the things in my home, few are formed by hands that I have ever touched. How many people has it taken to make this place? I'll never see their faces, never know their stories, never shake their hands. The few things I do have an idea about - photographs, art, a tabletop, a few knitted things, are consequently so meaningful to me that they almost take on life and personality.
The salad was exceptional, and my satisfaction was complete. In appreciation, I ate quietly and listened again for the sounds of all that had happened before I could have the food on my plate. It was silent now except for the humming of the refrigerator and the town outside, echoing with voices and engines.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way