A Night of Sweet at Pacifica Institute, Silicon Valley
Every tradition has a story behind it. Noah´s Pudding, a hodgepodge just like America, has an interesting one to be told.
When Noah's ark landed on the mountain after the flood, Noah and his friends prepared a delicacy with a little bit of everything left in the ark: grains, dried fruits, and pulses on the vessel such as figs, nuts, wheat, chickpeas, almonds and apricots. Sugar and love combination worked in a mysterious way, and the outcome was not bad at all as one might think. It turned out to be a delicious, sweet, rich dish called "Ashura" passing from generation to generation to be cooked and shared with family, friends and neighbors once a year in Turkey.
It is in Pacifica Institute's agenda to celebrate annual "Noah´s Pudding Nights" as a symbol of harmonic blend and unity of community members with different backgrounds, nationalities, religions and age groups. This is the very essence of America, "a melting pot". This year, the event was hosted at the Pacifica Institute Center on the night of January 31st with an extensive program including the speeches, music and presentations.
There were about hundred guests at the event, re-experiencing the great joy and the feast we presumably inherited from Noah and his companions. It started with the dinner. The opening speech was about the history of Noah´s pudding and its metaphoric representation of unity despite the differences. Following the speech, there was a precise slide show on how to cook the pudding. "I know one day the recipe will be handy for me and a bunch of other people in the room." said one of the guests.
Finally, ashura was served. "Ashura has its own distinctive flavor, the flavors meld, and that is how community functions." said the Reverend Matthew Broadbent, senior pastor of Foothills Congregational Church-UCC in Los Altos.
"When members of my church gathered for this year´s celebration, it was wonderful that we sat at different tables and met different people and learned, once again, what a wonderful time it is when people gather in peace and goodwill. It is the essence of community. The pudding, each ingredient features a variety of what would seem to be disparate items: beans and apricots and sugar and wheat and other additions, depending on the cook. It´s a lot of work, no doubt, but the end result is a tasty pudding that reminds us that after the storm passes and we have safely landed, God remembers us still and gives us the fruit of the earth to share with one another." The Reverend Evelyn Vigil from the same church added. "The moment when I had a scoop of ashura, I realized this country offers many opportunities to me because of its diverse nature just like ashura. If I had stayed in my home country, Japan, I would have never been able to meet those people and taste this dessert. I would have missed a chance to hear the story of how it is prepared with care and affection after a long process which takes hours. While I am scooping this dessert, I could feel the weight of history behind it. It is not a random type of pudding. It has joy, happiness, and caring for others." Motoko, a member of the cooking club who was present at the event, shared her thoughts.
Another significance of the night was "Group Anatolia", a sufi music band from Los Angeles. The music included a healing combination of the reed and the drum accompanied by voice. "I felt like my soul was taking a rest in the presence of the music." Meryem Halbutogullari, who were among the guests, commented. Pacifica Institute took over what Noah left, and multiplied it with thousands of years of love. Ashure Night was a night of peaceful and joyous fellowship, a reminder that we are all in this together.