Food is Love

My friend Assim

I have a good friend, Assim, who is from Lebanon.  I met him on the street one day.  As we were passing each other I stopped and said, “Good morning. How are you?” My friends think I am crazy but I make a point of saying hi, or good morning, or something to everyone I pass on the street but that is a whole other story.

How Long must we Suffer?

Anyway, so we stopped to chat and he says to me, “How long do we need to suffer?” Well that stopped me in my tracks. I said, “I don’t know, I am not suffering, I am happy.”  He said, “Really, you are happy??? That is wonderful. What do you do …..”, and the conversation went on from there.  I discovered that he was from Lebanon, that he was homeless, he had diabetes, and that he lived at the Pine Street Inn.

 Anonymous

Well, that got me thinking about so many things.  Other people’s suffering, the feeling of anonymity, not having a kitchen, not having even a room.  I realized that I had walked by Pine Street so many times but had no idea what was inside. I had met many of the folks that lived there, remember, I talk to everyone on the street. I went home, and told my husband, Steven, this story, and he said, I should go in and find out.

Pine Street Inn

The next time I went to the Southend, I cooked up some lentils and bulgur and made a salad with tomatoes, parsley, cucumbers, onions, and olive oil and lemon juice to go over it.  I figured that Assim must be missing some of the food he grew up with.  I went into Pine Street the next day and walked up to the front desk.  I must  admit, I was intimidated.  There were a lot of scary and tough looking men milling around, and the folks behind the desk looked pretty tough too. I told the woman at the front desk that I was looking for a man named Assim and that I had some food for him. We got to talking, and I found out that she was vegetarian, worked 2 jobs (80 hours a week) and her name was Linda. I am waiting around as they are trying to track down Assim. I meet some other people who work there and they were all super nice and friendly and not tough at all.  I ended up leaving the food for Assim and some guest passes and yoga schedules for the staff and a promise to return with more food for all. This was a couple of months ago.

In Search of Falafel

I just got back from a trip to Pine Street and a visit with Assim.  This time I brought him vegan shepherds pie (recipe to follow!) We talked for an hour about all kinds of things. We realized that we both have a passion for good falafel. We talked about all the different places to get falafel in NYC, where we have both lived, and how hard it is to find in Boston. He says the Syrians and Armenians make the best.  He has been traveling all over Boston and beyond trying to find it. Turns out, at Pine Street, you get a bed and a locker.  It is not the kind of place that you want to hang out in all day so he spends his days riding the bus and train all over the place.  I also now know a bunch more of the staff and men that live there.

Staying Human

Why am I telling this story? I guess because I feel that I have gained as much if not more from my relationship with Assim as he has. I feel fuller some how. I feel like my perspective has changed slightly on what it means to be human. Albert Schweitzer said, “Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives.” I believe that a strong connection can be made between the way that we see other creatures and the way we see or don’t see other human beings.  We all want to be worthy of attention and love yes?

Food is Love

I will continue to cook vegan food and bring it over to my friends at Pine Street Inn.  You see, that is one of the ways that I show love, with food. We all have our talents and our passions. I love to cook for people. I know there are a million ways to make a difference in the world but why not chose one that you enjoy as well? The good news is that food from that area of the world is mostly vegan and really delicious. Next, I am going to make Baba Ghannouj, Muhammara, and maybe some home-made pita bread.

Any good recipes out there?  How about good falafel? Let me know!

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4 Responses

  1. thank you for posting this wonderful story of assim and your friendship plus food . made my day!

  2. Hey Mimi, sorry I have not been able to stop by in a while but I read your blog now and then. I remembered your Pine Street story from some time ago, and wanted to share. Yesterday I lost my new work laptop on the train. I was riding the Orange Line from Downtown Crossing to Back Bay. I got off the train at Back Bay sans laptop. I spoke to the T personnel, traveled to Forest Hills hoping it made it there, spoke to T personnel on every station – you get the idea – and I finally gave up. As I was sitting in Downtown Crossing on the same bench where I had started my journey, distraught and with no hope of ever recovering it, my phone rang. It was a person who worked for Pine Street Inn. She worked at a shelter in Dorchester for women from Pine Street. Someone who lived there had found my laptop and turned it in to the office. They tracked me down, and I went to Dorchester to the house where she lived to meet her personally and pick it up. She was homeless and was in recovery as her counselor later told me, and she could have as easily sold my laptop for whatever it would have been worth on the street. Instead, I have it now. I gave her the biggest hug I could, and told her that she had proven to me that humanity and goodness does not know income, color, race or gender – it is aroop – formless – pardon the digression :-). I told her that I vowed to volunteer with the Pine Street Inn – something that I had not done in 20 years of living in the South End, and that her kind action had made me firm that resolve. That was it. It was so heartening and I remembered your blog post yesterday when all of this happened! Be well. Namaste.

    1. Hi Sunil, Wow, what a story. Thanks so much for sharing it with me. I feel filled with hope after hearing it. It is always lovely to hear from you! Hopefully, I will see you soon, maybe at Pine Street. I am usually there on Wednesday afternoons. Peace, Mimi

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