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What Can I Offer You in this Time of Tragedy?



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"Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. 
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La Belle Cuisine


What Can I Offer You in this Time of Tragedy?
Wednesday, 12 September 2001

 "Terrorist acts can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings
but cannot touch the foundation of America."
-- President George W. Bush, address to the nation

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of
comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

 You might be reading this from anywhere in the world. From New York, from Washington, D.C., from Boston, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Or
you might be much further removed from the horror, from its immediacy, feeling its reverberations in a different way. That is the case with me,
having determined the whereabouts of my elder son, who was scheduled
to fly American Airlines from Chicago to Washington yesterday morning.
And whose flight did not take off, thank God.

You may need condolences, sympathy, due to the loss of a family member
or close friend. If that is the case, please know that my heart goes out to
you.  Indeed, you have my most profound sympathy, my fervent prayers
for your strength, courage, and, ultimately, peace. Or you may simply need encouragement to do what you need to do today. You may be feeling helpless, hopeless, wondering why you should bother doing anything at all
if this is what it comes down to.span style="mso-spacerun: yes"> I can relate to that. I continue to be attacked from time to time by a devastating sense of futility.

Yesterday I found myself wondering if anything I was doing really mattered
at all, in light of the prevailing horror. All I could see was massive death and destruction. My day-to-day activities seemed totally insignificant by com- parison. I have given this a great deal of thought. Do recipes matter? Do
food-related web sites matter? Am I making a worthwhile contribution,
or am I simply spinning my wheels, passing time?

This is what I have learned. So far. Each of us has a unique gift. We do
serve a purpose in this mystery called life. I am not a politician, a military
expert, a diplomat. Nor am I a doctor, nurse, fireman, policeman, clergy-
man, or psychologist. The demand for people with these gifts is great.
What, then, can I offer you today, in your hour of need?

I am a journalist of sorts, a writer, a cook, a collector of recipes, cook-
books, and quotes. During a time of great crisis in my own life, I decided
to do something that would make my gifts available to the world. I believe very strongly that there is something of value here, otherwise I would not
do what I do seven days a week. But now, today, when the whole world seems to have gone mad? Yes. Today. This was my goal, when La Belle Cuisine began to evolve more than two years ago:

 “Our goal is to provide a beautiful, relaxing atmosphere,
designed to inspire, entertain and inform you.
Please enjoy your stay, and come back often.”

 Perhaps you will find, today, that exactly what you need is “a beautiful, relaxing atmosphere, designed to inspire, entertain and inform you”. And
all of us do, after all, have to eat. My personal decision, then, is to pursue
my chosen assignent. With vigor. I shall give it my absolute best. 

In order for me to persevere, I must continue to believe that what I do has value, that it is worthwhile, even though on the surface it does not appear to be a matter of life or death. A man whom we greatly admire, and whose expertise we often share with you, has put it very well:

 Back to Work

We can't act as if yesterday never happened. All of us will remember the events
for the rest of our lives. Minute details about the day will live on in our minds.
But the best thing we can do today is to dive back into our daily activities.
Most of us were not directly affected by the attack. Even though everyone with
a soul was deeply shaken, life is not terminated by feelings of violation and
I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I made a few hundred dollars for a speaking engagement a few days ago. I'm going to invest all of it in the stock market
The second item on the agenda is to spend an extra hour thinking of ways to
expand my service to other people…
And, at some time during the day, I'm going to have a spectacular meal in the
best restaurant I can think of.  [Mr. Fitzmorris is an esteemed New Orleans restaurant critic and author.]
If this sounds callous and selfish, please know that as soon as funds open to
help the 9/11 victims, I plan on giving to them, too.
But I think at this moment the open display of confidence in our society and
its best institutions is thumbing our noses at our attackers…”

- Tom Fitzmorris


There is a great deal of wisdom in those words. If we give in to our darker emotions, we will be, in effect, giving up. And the forces of evil will have won.

What do you do? Every day? What is your profession, your passion? What are your gifts? What is the job you do now - if only to keep body and soul together - on the way to pursuing your dream? Are you a secretary, a postal worker, a retail salesperson, a short-order cook, a waiter? We need you. We need your services.
Or perhaps you are an artist, a musician, a writer. We need you more than ever. Especially now, when we are surrounded on all sides by visions of horror, we need beauty, grace, and inspiration in our lives.
Maybe you are an actor, or a comedian. Yesterday was certainly not the
day for comedy. But in the challenging days to come, a sense of humor
will be vital to us as well, for its extraordinary power to heal.

Whatever you do, please give it your best. It matters. I believe that every single individual human life matters immensely. That is one of the principles upon which this country was founded, and one which has made it great.

As I write, I can hear New York City’s Mayor Rudolph Giuliani urging
New Yorkers to go on with their lives by beginning to resume their normal activities. He is urging them to go to restaurants, to go shopping, to show
the world their strength in the face of tragedy.

Who knows. Perhaps reading about food and recipes would actually be helpful to you today. It might even be soothing. Should that be the case,
if you feel the need, then by all means please check out
Comfort Food.

Be well, my dear unseen friends, be safe, and above all, do not lose heart.  Give your best. Give, give, give. We are Americans. We are resilient.
We are survivors. 

 “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful,
to be honorable  to be compassionate, to have it make
some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Until next time, remember:

The purpose of human life is to give and receive love.


"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think
of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I
am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the
love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and
fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one."

~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating icon icon




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