Nourishing A Peaceable Community
In the wake of the recent events in Charlottesville, I’ve been pondering the logistics of building peaceful community. It seems that for a city or town to have the resilience to resist hate, it has to be a lively, vibrant, connected community, one where many people feel a strong sense of belonging. There’s lots of social research that indicates that this sense of belonging is losing ground in the USA, for dozens of reasons, from increased job mobility to increasing distraction seeking, media addiction and more. Holding an occasional protest or festival can’t truly do the job; weaving community requires many small threads. It also takes time, yet I’ve seen how quickly we can bond over shared experiences and desires. It seems clear that people who long for peaceful, nourishing community are the very ones who can most effectively create it.
Here on the island, several hundred people gathered on a downtown green space after Charlottesville with candles and hurting hearts. It was heartening to see that the momentum was positive rather than negative; people gathered not to scorn the haters but to show their desire and support for a more peaceful, inclusive, and just society. As people shared stories and songs, it became apparent that many of us want to be more connected, to learn from each other, and to stand together in the face of hate. Over and over we heard that community is strengthened when we welcome diversity, meet challenges with compassion, and support each other with kindness.
A Cafe For Kindness
I’ve been thinking and talking with friends about ways to encourage the momentum of that initial event locally. Recently, I got permission from Eagle Harbor Congregational Church to host a monthly Peace Cafe in the Fellowship Hall. The idea is to make a time and place for coming together to share experiences and ideas that can help build kinder, stronger, and more resilient community for all of us. I’m inviting our local branch of Indivisible to participate, as well as local faith communities and anyone who is interested is definitely welcome to come and talk and listen.
One problem I saw at our outdoor gathering was that the circle was so huge, we couldn’t always hear each other. At the end, as people drifted away, I had a vision of doing a grand promenade, circling around and shaking hands right and left so we all got to see each other face to face and maybe exchange names. Years ago, I participated in several “talk cafes”, open gatherings where participants move between variously labeled “topic tables”, including some undesignated tables for free discussion. It seemed like a great model for developing an open yet small scale forum that allowed enough interaction that everyone at a given table can speak and be heard.
Kindness In, Kindness Out
My model is also influenced by the Socratic Cafe program, which encourages careful phrasing of table topics to promote broader and more empathetic responses than single word topics like racism or hate might. Thus, each Peace Cafe table’s conversation will hopefully be sparked by a prepared question which aims to stimulate thoughtful responses. How can our community resist hate/racism in our schools? How can we discover/explore our own filters, perhaps white/privilege, abled/disabled, agist, gender spectrum, etc.? What actually, practically encourages/discourages a diverse community?
Loving, Compassionate Exit Strategies
Here’s a great conversation starter:
If your community could benefit from such a program, please feel free to adapt this one to your own needs. Here on Bainbridge island, we will host Peace Cafes monthly and intend to include all ages. If there is interest, we will happily arrange for daytime events as well, possibly at the Senior center and the local schools. Like any good cafe, we’ll supply coffee and tea and light snacks.
Dorie Greenspan’s Peace Cookies
What do you serve at a Peace Cafe? Perhaps the most delicious treat ever developed, the World Peace Cookie has become as iconic as those ubiquitous molten chocolate cakes. I have a riff on the recipe, as many people do, and Dorie herself has take it a step further as well, as you can see here:
Here’s the gist of Dorie’s latest version from the link above:
“A word on mixing, log rolling and patience: This dough can be different from batch to batch — it always seems to turn out well no matter what, but the inconsistency can be frustrating. I’ve found that it’s best to mix the dough for as long as it takes to get big, moist curds that hold together when pressed and then knead if necessary so it comes together. When you’re rolling it into logs, keep checking that the logs are solid. Again, the dough can be capricious and it may not always roll into a compact log on the first (or second or third) try. Be patient.
Makes about 36 cookies
1 1/4 cups (170 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (28 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons; 5 1/2 ounces; 155 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
2/3 cup (134 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces (142 grams) best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into irregular sized bits
Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed until soft, creamy and homogenous, about 3 minutes. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Turn off the mixer, add all the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to start the blending. When the risk of flying flour has passed, turn the mixer to low and beat until the dough forms big, moist curds. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix to incorporate. This is an unpredictable dough (see above). Sometimes it’s crumbly and sometimes it comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Happily, no matter what, the cookies are always great.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it together, kneading it if necessary to bring it together. Divide the dough in half. Shape the dough into logs that are 11/2 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about the length — get the diameter right, and the length will follow. (If you get a hollow in the logs, just start over.) Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and freeze them for at least 2 hours or refrigerate them for at least 3 hours.
When you’re ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Working with one log at a time and using a long, sharp knife, slice the dough into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. (The rounds might crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them. (If you’ve cut both logs, keep one baking sheet in the fridge while you bake the other.)
Bake the cookies for 12 minutes — don’t open the oven, just let them bake. When the timer rings, they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, and that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can munch them, or let them reach room temperature (I think the texture’s more interesting at room temperature).
Bake the remaining dough.
STORING The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just bake the cookies 1 minute longer.”