THE INFAMOUS DANDELION LUNCH – REVISITED

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My friend Lorrie has inspired me to return to the original intent of this blog, which was to foster an appreciation for the bounty that surrounds us – bounty that for the most part goes unnoticed as we struggle to piece our lives together one day at a time in an overly complicated world.

This is a blog about appreciation, about simple pleasures, and of the joy that comes from thriving by your wits rather than merely surviving. It’s about shifting from a mentality of deprivation to a sense that we have all we will ever really need. We have enough, or in my Irish great-grandfather’s words, “an elegant sufficiency”.

Here is the story of the “Dandelion Lunch”:

It was the mid-seventies. I was the divorced mom of a small son – unemployed, barely surviving on Welfare and Food Stamps. One day in early April I was down to pocket change. It was time for desperate measures if I was to feed my hungry kid. I walked up to the store, bought a few chicken wings and on the way home I foraged along the roadside for dandelion greens.

“What’s this weird stuff?” asked my sweet son pointing to his lunch plate.
“It’s gourmet,” I said. “They pay big bucks for this in fancy restaurants downtown.”
He stared at the mound of greens as if it had tentacles.
“But what is it?”
Here it comes, I thought, no way out now.
“Fresh spring greens sautéed with onions and chicken wings, topped with grated cheese.”
“Looks like weeds,” he said, prodding his lunch with one fork tine.
Having been backed into a corner I pulled the mother card.
“Just eat it or go hungry!” I almost added the bit about starving children in Africa – my mom’s particular favorite – but I’d pushed things too far as it was.

I can’t remember how much of that lunch my darling son actually ate – after all it’s been almost forty years – yet I do remember enjoying it myself. Pretty tasty to my way of thinking – not to mention creative! But then I also believed he bought the “spring greens” description. He was a grown man when he finally revealed he’d been wise to me all along.
“Jeez Mom, kids know a dandelion when they see one,” he said. “Even without the foofies.” I smiled at the use of his childhood term for the seed heads.
“I’ll have you know dandelion greens are extremely high in calcium and all sorts of other vitamins and minerals,” I countered, sinking fast.
“Sure, Mom,” he said with a smile.
Every April since, I’ve asked him over for lunch as soon as the first succulent dandelion greens sprout in the back garden. Most of the time he shows up. Laughing.

Today as April stands on the doorstep I recall those long ago hardscrabble times – recall the lessons learned and how good it felt to survive on my wits. I was proud to be self-sufficient and resourceful in a desperate time. But times are tough these days too. Many of my friends are unemployed or scraping by on meager retirement incomes. When haven’t times been tough? My parents and grandparents managed through the Great Depression – my Great-grandfather Tierney survived the Irish Famine that killed a million people. Yet they came through with a sense of pride and a sense of humor. They had an “elegant sufficiency”. It made for good lives – happy lives. They taught me that you don’t need “stuff”. They taught me that if you truly appreciate what you have, you have enough. The most nourishing things to body and soul are totally free. You just have to look around you.

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