We were in Iceland for the last two weeks of May. It was the fastest I have ever fallen in love with a place. From the moment my lungs first filled with Iceland’s sea air that smelled like the earth and tasted better than anything I have ever eaten, I knew I was in love. We were explorers. We found glaciers, sea birds, volcanoes, seals, and so many waterfalls that at a certain point we no longer pointed them out to each other. We took waterfalls for granted. Iceland focuses your attention on our earth. It is hard to think about anything else. It is so big, and makes you feel so small. You are confronted with a land that didn’t have to endure humans until very recently. I thought a lot about death, but not in a morbid way. I mostly wondered why the earth isn’t enough. Why do we have to imagine heaven when it is enough for me to know that I will dissolve into a rock, a tree, an arctic tern. I am forever. I thought a lot about entering the earth, communing—sliding into the crevasse of a glacier, burrowing into ash, letting moss grow over me. Iceland does this to you, if you are doing it right. Even in Reykjavik, metropolis of 120,000 people, spring water falls from the faucet in your smartly designed hotel room. The puffin still appears. The lamb you saw grazing on a hill is served on a plate and tastes of the land you explored. It is easy to access the pleasures of Earth in Iceland. It was all we had to do.

We flew back home after Memorial Day weekend to news that everyone in Chicago had been shot. At least it felt that way, though we all know that it isn’t white people being shot in Chicago. Chicago, my troubled homeland, felt like a particularly difficult place to be. We sat in traffic. We read depressing political news. The streets smelled like garbage and car exhaust. I struggled to drink the water coming out of our tap because now it just tastes like chlorine. Bryan and I were short with each other and easily frustrated. It was an acute version of the post-vacation blues, but also something more.

On Sunday a lot of people were murdered in a nightclub by one of our fellow citizens. He murdered people because they were gay or danced with gay people. In the aftermath of the shooting I have watched politicians, who have spent their entire careers trying to destroy gay people, relieved to turn the conversation to Islamic extremism to avoid having to express false sorrow. I’ve wondered about all of the prayers being directed at the victims. Churches are often the first community to reject us for our sexual preference. Families were supposed to be in our thoughts, another group that often turns us out. I wonder how many victims were outed to their families as a result of this tragedy? How many parents received the news of their child’s death after years of estrangement? I also wondered about my own safety and the safety of my husband and friends. These are morbid thoughts.

I’ve thought a lot about hate, too. I’ve lost track of what we are all talking about when we use the word. I wish language was more precise. Hating injustice is different than hating gay people. It’s not all bad. I get confused because some people call their hate “religion” or “patriotism”.

Of course I know that Iceland isn’t really a utopia, it has its own set of problems. But as a visitor it was for a couple of weeks. I didn’t worry about much and tried to just feel and exist and enjoy. I called my best friend halfway through the trip and she said it sounded like a spiritual journey, I don’t know about that but it was something. It reminded me that we don’t have to accept the things we don’t like. There actually are better ways. We can create a new world. It also reminded me of the privilege I have in my life. It is almost unfathomable my privilege in the context of our world. I do not have the right to be as complacent as I sometimes am. It is unforgivable.

Some of you like to remind me that this is supposed to be a food blog. You’d prefer I “stick to food”. I have no patience for that line of thinking. And besides, when did I ever? I don’t think we deserve an escape. Your privilege in being able to read food blogs needs to come with the price of not forgetting. I provide occasional reminders.

Our kitchens are, in many ways, the most vital and important space for political discourse. We learn at the kitchen table, we argue, we affirm, we try to figure things out. We imagine the world we want and start creating it in our homes. We have a better chance of convincing someone who sits down to dinner. There is a lot of work to do. There are children to educate and friends to inspire. The revolution starts at the kitchen table, not in the voting booth. The future holds the possibility of freedom, the past does not. There is no Again.

Iceland is fading for me. It is already getting hard to recall how I felt there. I want to return, but more than that I want to help create a world from which nobody needs an escape—where we don’t need to be waiting for vacation, or a revolution, or heaven. The next few months are important for our country. We need to act. We will win.

75 comments to “Here”

  1. Thank you for this. This is going to stick with me, and this graph hits home particularly. Empowering the domestic, the quotidian, the invisible conversations, food as edible connection and tangible lesson.

    “Our kitchens are, in many ways, the most vital and important space for political discourse. We learn at the kitchen table, we argue, we affirm, we try to figure things out. We imagine the world we want and start creating it in our homes. We have a better chance of convincing someone who sits down to dinner. There is a lot of work to do. There are children to educate and friends to inspire. The revolution starts at the kitchen table, not in the voting booth. The future holds the possibility of freedom, the past does not. There is no Again.”

    In solidarity,

  2. Jeffrey C says:

    June 16th, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    It deeply saddens me at the daily reminders at how so many people have devalued and commoditized human life.

  3. welltailored says:

    June 16th, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    I had a similar shift following a trip to a tiny tiny tiny spot in Mexico a few years ago. Rather than a vacation that enabled me to retreat from life, it threw into relief all the things I was no longer quite sure about once I returned home. This rippled and resonated for months–I got into wild political disputes with friends, drank like an idiot one weekend, withdrew from things I’d previously done without any critical examination or second thought. I felt disturbed by the way we handled everyday things, the way we categorised items as ok to throw in the trash, the tenor of day-to-day dealings. I forget, now, whether there was a culminating event–big picture/worldwide scale–or if this was really just all about me. But, I’ll never forget the feeling of coming home from a holiday in a beautiful place and realising SO MANY things.

  4. These are awful times. I know intellectually that the world has never been safer, and yet it feels like terrible menace lurks everywhere now. I’m so anxious for Hugo – what kind of world have I brought him into? The responsibility and anxiety is crushing sometimes. I don’t have any answers, but what I do know is that being in nature, reading books and spending time with friends makes me feel better, while being online often makes me feel worse. Ugh, go figure. In any case, I guess I’m just trying to say that I know how you feel and I’m glad you’re my friend. Big hugs from over here. xo

  5. I’ve always had faith in the majority of people to do the right thing. But lately, it’s hard to see beyond the hatred & greed to find the humanity.

  6. The world *is* enough, isn’t it? The beauty with which you write about Iceland belies the extent to which you fell in love – thank you for sharing that, and for reminding us what’s possible. Thank you also for reminding us of what’s real, what’s happening on the ground at any given minute.

    Would that we would/could/had left the world alone a little bit more. I find it strangely hopeful to think that the Earth will survive us long after we render ourselves extinct. And in the meantime, I’m glad to have folks like you to give us words and images and sometimes food to feed us and to force us to reckon.


  7. Thank you for sharing the magic of your recent trip to Iceland. In a week filled with sadness and fear it was lovely to soak up the purity of such a unique environment. Your contributions are always so wonderful and lift my spirits. I wish you and your family all good things.

  8. Well said. We do need occasional reminders. Thank you.

  9. Thank you for this. It is so perfectly articulated and such a potent reminder of how pivotal THIS moment is. “I want to help create a world from which nobody needs an escape—where we don’t need to be waiting for vacation, or a revolution, or heaven.” It’s something we can all wrap our head and hearts around but it’s also something we need to stand behind.

  10. Beautifully written – the juxtaposition between your escape to idyllic Iceland and the horror that was occurring in our own country. My only hope is that something will change as we unite against this seemingly endless stream of senseless violence. Our thoughts are all with the LGBTQ community during this difficult time…

  11. As I was reading this, I was thinking to myself how, I love the photos here, I love the recipes here, but my favorite posts are when you write about *something*. I was shocked to keep reading and hear that you’ve received feedback to stick to food. This writing is beautiful and heartfelt. I’m so sorry that these moments of awe and wonder had to be coupled with such crushing heartache. Please keep writing about whatever moves you—I for one am reading.

  12. I’m reading the most amazing book called The Wild Edge of Sorrow by Francis Weller. The author talks a lot about the grief we carry (whether or not we know it) for our earth and how we’ve destroyed it. And he talks about how we should be grieving for our earth. I completely feel that on almost a regular basis–esp. here in LA with our epic drought.

    Relatedly, I couldn’t sleep the night of the Dems. sit-in. I was so worked up, so agitated. There’s so much anger on both sides. The next morning, I decided to take a break from our 24-hour news cycle and I already feel a lot better. I know I can’t ignore the news forever, but I want to be smarter about how I take it in. xoxoxx

  13. Possibly your most brilliant blog yet. Thank you so much.

  14. Beautifully said. Inspiring. Honest. And for what it is worth, I think “food” is political… What we eat, where we eat, why we eat, with whom we eat. Our dining tables should be a place of revolutionary consciousness and awareness.

  15. “The revolution starts at the kitchen table, not at the voting booth”. Those are brilliant words. I don’t really even know what to say except this was so beautifully written and so important. I hope and pray for more love in our world….

  16. Grateful for this post and its truth. I’ve always believed words can change the world. Open one person’s eyes and heart with your words and it spreads exponentially from them. It is a time of grief, and it can also be a time of action.

  17. This was a beautiful piece of writing, and thinking like this is much needed in our world right now. I am from the UK and I hate what is happening to my country – it has made me really see us (apparently 52% of us) and it is shameful. Not just the extreme racism and right wing rhetoric, but the everyday xenophobia and isolationism and arrogance that we’re so bloody great. I used to feel proud of my country, I hope I can again.

  18. Thank you for how you share yourself online – in your words, pictures, recipes, humor.

  19. I really loved this piece, and loved a long time ago, “You’re Boring.” Keep doing what you’re doing.

  20. Catching up on you recent posts. This was a timely read — thank you.

  21. My favorite post on your blog. Bravo!

  22. Loved, loved this post! The photo was simply sumptuous.
    If you had 3 days in Iceland, which I may, what do you recommend Tim?

  23. Hi Kelly! That is tough. But I think I would spend one night in Reykjavik and then the rest of your time driving the Golden Circle and the south coast stopping at Vik (black sand beaches) and going all of the way up to Jokulsarlon (the famous iceberg lagoon). It would be a lot of driving, but driving is a joy there and the views are unlike anything. Another option would be a night in Reykjavik and then driving up to Snaefellsnes and staying somewhere up there for a night. Otherwise, stay in Reykjavik and sign up for a tour of the Golden Circle, that is what most people do. It will give you a little glimpse into the landscape. But I hope you rent a car and explore. Feel free to email when you know your plans and I can share more specifics. : )

  24. we eloped in Iceland and our 48 hours there were simply stunning. I cannot wait to go back for a longer stretch of time. XO

  25. What an inspiring blog post. I want to print it, and read it to people dear to me. I was especially moved by the connection you made about change in the world and our kitchen table. As a mother of four, living in Jerusalem, Israel, hosting many Shabbat meals- politics and social change are all discussed inside the home- and after nourishing ourselves on the weekend- we must go out and act in the world afterwards. Thank You!