The Mechanical and Living Origins of Stinging Nettle Pesto (Recipe Attached)

For the past several years, I have made cooking and reflecting on eating a mindful practice. When I have time to cook I typically reflect on the process, flavors, smells, and textures. I isolate my perception to what is directly in front of me. Several weeks ago, however, I contemplated a concept introduced in class as I prepared a batch of stinging nettle pesto: the distinction between mechanical and living systems. In front of me were University District farmer’s market nettles, Trader Joe’s pine nuts, Safeway Select olive oil, Lucerne Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic cloves. While I could only trace the life cycle of the nettles with any certainty, I envisioned the journey of each ingredient. Perhaps it is this course’s early emphasis on industrialized food, but my initial thoughts lead me to imagine monoculture orchards, industrial dairy farms, hulking processing plants, and I-5 semi-trucks. But as I focused on each step of a mechanized process more clearly, I also saw the interactions of birds, bugs, and microbiota with the plants. I visualized the miraculous growth of garlic shoots, workers hands harvesting, the ripening of an olive trees fruit, and cows mooing. It is funny to think that all of these natural developments likely involved fossil fuel-powered machines or that the nutrients taken up by plants had Haber-Bosch origins. Perhaps the human hands that touched their harvest touched a car’s steering wheel at the end of the day. In my mental visualizations, the mechanical system was truly not so distinct from the living one. As I realized this, I reached the final step of the recipe: blending in the food processor. Each natural ingredient, with its lengthily imagined backstories, was being transformed through a process – living and mechanical – and it didn’t seem that strange to me.

5 thoughts on “The Mechanical and Living Origins of Stinging Nettle Pesto (Recipe Attached)

  1. Katie

    I love your use of systems theory with your personal outside-of-class contemplative experience. I’m going to try this recipe now!

  2. Matt Robinson

    I really enjoyed reading this, Corina. Your familiarity with mindfulness and contemplation is evident in the imagery and energy conveyed in your writing. I realized something about the limitations of my own thinking through your descriptions of the symbiosis between organic and mechanical systems; contrasting things can be easier than integrating them even though our lives are lived in the spaces where we integrate disparate ways.

  3. Rachel Mackenzie Hand

    I really enjoyed reading about your thought process while cooking. I feel as though this course has led us all to think more about where our food comes from, and what it is we are really eating. I definitely think more about how my food came to be now. I think it’s really interesting that you mentioned the machinery that played a part in creating your food; I never thought about just how much power it took to farm and get food to me prior to learning about it in this course. It’s interesting to see that after engaging in contemplative practices in class, these contemplative moments have made their way into our daily lives.
    Thank you for sharing!

  4. Brian Honaker-Coe

    Hi Corina, I thought your post was beautiful. I feel that it exemplifies the kind of mindfulness that Professor Litfin has been so heartily espousing with our contemplative practices. I think we can definitely appreciate our food that much more if take a moment to consider where all the individual ingredients in our meals come from. It could all be part of a local bounty, or it could be the translation of multiculturalism to our dinner plates–either way, it’s pretty amazing to me. What I liked most about your post was your perception that living and mechanical systems aren’t all that different. I am inclined to agree, and I think it’s an interesting and potentially beautiful exercise to think about how we can harmoniously pair nature and technology in a way that is beneficial to all. And no matter your opinion, it is certainly impressive to think about what technology has afforded us in terms of food, whether we’re talking about sheer production or species hybridization. But, I think we have to ask how we can more often ensure that the technologies and processes we have can be used beneficently, in a way that is positive for both the ecosystem and humanity.

  5. juliah98

    I really enjoyed how you were able to incorporate practices that we used in class into your every day life in order to form more of a relationship with the food you were eating. It is so important to acknowledge where our food came from so that we are not consuming mindlessly. I think that if more individuals incorporated the technique that you demonstrated so well, we would all have a better understanding of the food system, and would have more ideas about what we should be putting into our bodies.


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