April 11, 2004

a home cooked meal

Tonight as I chopped the onion and let it sizzle in the Dutch Oven, as Damian and I fed Wasa crackers into the food processor to make breadcrumbs that I then sprinkled with basil and oregano, as I sliced into the perfectly ripe, amazingly buttery Fuerte avocado and peeled the still-hot candy cane beets, slicing them into quarters to show off their narrow pink and yellow striping, as I laid the buffalo cube steak flat to pick up its layer of tan crumbs, as I chiffonaded the dinosaur kale Ė so delicately laced, like ice on a window Ė and then tossed it into the Dutch Oven to melt into a puddle of green, as I splashed olive oil and balsamic vinegar onto the still-warm beets and so-smooth avocado and tossed them together with a wooden spoon, I felt happy.

I love cooking. I love the busy concentration of it, juggling seven things at once as you rush carefully toward an inevitable conclusion. I love working with my hands, chopping and slicing and turning and stirring. I love the smells: the onion juice on my fingers, the sharp tang of soy sauce, the sweet bite of vinegar and the earthen musk of the beet tops. I love the tastes, the surprise of flavors mixed. I love the alchemy, I love the thinking-not thinking nearly Buddhist mental state. I love the way Damian carries his stool around the kitchen, watching intently and asking so many questions. I love sitting down to a meal that I prepared Ė or better, that Dan and I prepared together, with an assist from our son Ė and tasting the final product, enjoying the experience for itself, the taste of good food on the tongue, the warmth in my belly, but also enjoying the fact that I did this, that pride of an accomplishment, that knowledge that this food is healthy and tasty and made from scratch by a chef who loved her work.

Dan and I used to cook all the time: coq au vin, mousakka, wild mushroom soup, rosemary bread, wilted spinach salad, smoked salmon pizza, custardy flan. The only food in our freezer was either for future food prep or stored leftovers. We never stopped in the frozen food aisle. Now? Well, cooking more than steamed broccoli and some hot dogs is occasion for celebration. I know how it happened. Child, work, exhaustion, who has energy to cook? Cooking as chore, not pleasure. Eating, therefore, also chore. Or hey, letís eat out! Hey, letís spend money! Hey, letís forget the pride and satisfaction of a home cooked meal! Itís inevitable, maybe, given our life. It also feels wrong. It feels like a habit now more than a need. It feels like something I want to change.

It feels like rediscovering myself. Cooking a full meal, trying something a little different. Fancy that.

Posted by Tamar at April 11, 2004 09:51 PM

"I know how it happened. Child, work, exhaustion, who has energy to cook? Cooking as chore, not pleasure. Eating, therefore, also chore."

Oh how familiar that sounds. Several years of mortgage, working too much etc, followed by two years of parenting... I'm *just* starting to try to get back into cooking good, healthy from scratch meals again!

Posted by: Kay at April 15, 2004 03:31 AM