Last summer, on Lummi Island, the lavender shrubs that surround our off-kitchen patio were swarming with honeybees. After all of the trouble we have heard about colony-collapse and the catastrophic loss of our right-hand pollinators, it was heartening to see them thriving. A visiting friend, however, told me she had recently read that there is no such thing as a wild honeybee, anymore. She suspected those bees belonged to some keeper and they were just free-ranging on our lavender. Day-trippers.
I have been savoring Honeybees, by Naomi Shihab Nye these past weeks. It is a small collection of poetry and memoirs that in some way connect to the issues and characteristics of these members of the Apini tribe. From the front flap, we can anticipate all of the life connections we will be making to this symbol of ourselves.
“Honey. Beeswax. Pollinate. Hive. Colony. Work. Dance. Communicate. Industrious. Buzz. Sting. Cooperate.
Where would we be without them? Where would we be without one another?”
Between the bees and the book and our school start-up, I have been thinking a lot about community building, how we try to orchestrate it, but how it ends up happening organically. Some people have extraordinary intelligence for finding intersecting points between us. If you haven’t been in an international school, you might assume Allan and I, or the leadership team, or a social committee facilitates the community building, and we do and they do, but those events are only platforms. The relationships develop when a colleague brings her team mates homemade muffins on a Monday morning, a neighbor brings by fresh lemons from her tree to everyone living in a 5 block radius, someone calls to spontaneously ask you over for soup, or out to a simple fish lunch, or for a bike ride. It happens like pollination: single points of touch until eventually, something has amassed and has its own life. We have some key connectors with us here. We need them to help build the relational culture of our school. Allan and I need them to build a community for us to live in.
Case in point: A hobby of home-brewing is the current rage for some of the staff. Our friend and experienced brew-master has spent several weekend hours at our house lately coaching novice brewers toward their first batch of beer. Tomorrow will be bottling day, but the time spent visiting while stirring, and boiling, and cooling has been the best part of the experience. Additionally, there will be a nice beer, Punic Port Double IPA, for the outcome.
And because I promised this recipe to a new family who are vegans, I am adding my tabouli recipe. This is from Paula Wolfert who wrote The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. She is another master teacher who collected and developed recipes from the best home and professional cooks she encountered throughout her season of living around the Mediterranean rim. I wish I could have this wealth of regional knowledge by the time I leave here.
The secret to the deep flavor base of this salad is soaking the bulgur in lemon juice for about an hour before proceeding with the recipe. Other soaking liquid alternatives are tomato juice, onion juice, or fresh pressed and strained sour grape juice.
Serves 6; Makes 4 cups
- 1/2 cup fine grain bulgur
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups finely diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons slivered fresh mint leaves
- Tender romaine leaves
1. Place the bulgur in a fine sieve, rinse under cold running water, squeeze dry, and soak in the lemon juice for 45 minutes. Use a fork to fluff the bulgur.
2. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, scallions, and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Drizzle on the olive oil and toss. Fold in the bulgur, parsley, and mint and mix well. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally.
3. Taste and correct the flavors with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve with crisp inner leaves of romaine lettuce for scooping up the salad.