Welcome back to The Mustard Sandwich, a snack of a newsletter featuring everyday stories on people and food. If you’re a new reader, thank you for joining us in the lunchroom! The theme of this issue is “the sprint” – moments of speed in life when you’re pushing yourself through an experience and engaging with your physical, mental, and emotional limits. Sound familiar?
We’ve all experienced these seasons at work and in various activities. As a (very occasional) runner, I find myself more able to speed up and slow down than endure for miles – sprinting knowing that I will have a chance to stop. The same is true when I’m writing a piece or teaching until the next break. I lose track of basic needs while charging through class periods and piles of papers to mark before the final bell rings.
Part of what facilitates the flow state of a sprint, or “being in the zone”, is that it is bookkended by moments of stillness. These periods of reflection, the promises of time, enable us to digest what we have accomplished and understand how operating under constraints helped us grow beyond them.
As I lean back in my chair in the twilight of what has been the most constrained and challenging school year of all time, I am not disappointed. Rather, I am in awe of what we – students, teachers, and families – have collectively deployed to keep our learning communities alive.
Our story of sprinting and belaying this week is about Beth, a former Capitol Hill staffer, fellow busy eater, small farm aficianado, and now writer. Beth’s commitment to her community took her all the way to Washington, D.C. where she discovered her love of service – in the zone.
It took Beth Bellizzi seven years and a whole lot of professional shuffling to land her gig as a press secretary on the Hill. “I am originally from Connecticut and started my career in the state legislature,” shares Beth. That’s where she met the congressman she ended up working for. “I was already in DC and he remembered I worked on the communications team in his State Legislative Caucus.”
The opportunity to work on congressional initiatives didn’t come easy. It took applying to countless random political jobs, getting turned down, moving to the state office to work for a senator, and then to another DC job before she got her big break. “A lot of hits and misses!” as she calls them.
The work was high-octane. A lot of dashing through corridors from offices to hearings, and hearings to meetings. “It was insane,” says Beth. “I was hardly at my desk and would constantly fire myself up with coffee, gum, and a brownie. But most of us had a lofty sense that we were making a difference.” Proof that sugar and a sense of purpose can jet fuel anything.
Beth was dedicated to her career in politics because she was passionate about supporting the people of her state. Some of her favorite memories happened off the Hill at events back home where she would hear directly from constituents about local issues and concerns. This monthly district recess is intended to keep politicians in touch with their home communities and better frame the work happening in Washington.
“You can get too entrenched in the ivory tower of the Hill and lose touch if you are not careful,” she adds. Wary of falling into this trap herself herself, Beth kept her interest in public service alive through grassroots work.
“I had an opportunity to volunteer at Arcadia Farm in Alexandria, VA,” she shares. More interested in policy than politics, Beth sought to make a dent in the issue of food deserts – pockets of the country surrounded by wealthy communities laden with grocery stores and fresh food markets, but excluded from the bounty.
Working with the earth in close knit circles was enlivening. “The thought that what I harvested in the morning would be sold a few hours later in a Washington, D.C. food desert, and make its final stop in someone’s kitchen all in the same day was incredible.”
Beth’s experience reminds us that, in order to evolve into a real contribution, our work must take on many forms, have many tempos and touchpoints, and consist of both successful and failed attempts in the long and arduous process of reaching a summit. It must be loyal to our vision of how we are uniquely positioned to make a difference.
You can find Beth – changemaker, writer, farmer, and friend – on her website, Write Committed.
@ericriveracooks taking matters into his own hands I’ve followed visionary chef and owner of Addo Seattle (@addoseattle) for a few months now as he’s pivoted to a food business model that includes retail products like snazzy sauces and DIY takeaways. I appreciate his wisdom and activism around current labor challenges in the service industry. Please support this enigmatic entrepreneur by buying from his growing Puerto Rican-inspired pantry of goodies, shipping available nationwide!
I had to include a sex shot of the gluten free vegan fish sauce, whaaat.
@eatenmag’s chai gulp from a bygone era The pandemic unfolding in India is rightfully lurking in my mind. Staring at this image of a chaiwalla taking a midday sip while another balances a cup on a saucer reminds of bustling, yet much simpler times – childhood summer visits, walking down busy streets with aunties bedecked in mango silk saris, and drinking tea as hot as the sun. I’m hoping for better times in the spirit of beautiful memories.
@chlosoup’s Lunchables Earrings A fun throwback to horrible-for-you school lunches made ok through art! Check out this talented resin artist and her fun food themed jewelry typically sold out in minutes. I appreciate the attention to detail and homage to annatto.
A haunting mystical story of healing from deep within the Malabar forest of southern India, this story of Vellan, a naati vaidyar or traditional pulse doctor, blurs the lines between forest, food, and medicine. This read left me with every feeling – conflicting emotions of spirituality, hope, and vanishing quietly juxtaposed against the din of a breathless India. Sometimes pain is the only thing that can wake you up to the lost treasures of humanity. Check out Good Food Jobs for more stories like this.
I skimmed this piece on asafoetida by Vidya Balachander a while ago, but was compelled to revisit it after a recent conversation with my sister. We reuinted over mitthi kadhi, a sweet potato gravy, and rice at my parents’ house and the hing was especially potent. As a kid, I thought asafoetida was some frowned upon chemical concoction on account of its name. My father never used it in his strictly North Indian cooking, but it was ever present in my mother’s mashup Hyderabadi dishes. Like my mother’s cooking, Vidya’s piece is border busting – it thoughtfully transgresses demarcations of culture, religion, and region to present a precious ingredient. Like its pungent subject, this piece lingers.
Thanks for making it this far, lunch buddies. Until next time!