Cuss-Free Cooking

5:30 p.m.  I drift into the kitchen to make dinner.  I’m mellow.

I shouldn’t be.  It’s been a full day.  A good day–at a community event, surrounded by good people, a rare day out with my fella (who I spend lots of time with, but usually just one-on-one).  After doing far more talking than I’ve done since either my teaching days or my first trade fair four years ago at the end of which I literally wanted to crawl under a rock and attempt to recuperate both my lost voice and my sapped energy, I reach for my essential oil stash and whip up a quick, soothing blend.  I run water for one of my favourite treats: a bath.

Yep, a before-dinner bath.  Not usually my style.  Baths, in my world, are a decadent pleasure.  Not to be confused with showers, quick washes, or catching a fresh.  I rarely start cooking before six, even on weekends, and bathing comes long meals have been enjoyed and digestion is done.  Today, instead, I step out of the tub to (shock) twilight.  The days are finally stretching out, claiming time back from night.  The air’s chill softening.

It’s a different experience, cooking calm.  I chuckle at the concept of Mis En Place, and joke (mostly to myself) about my own version: Mis En Mess.  I wash vegetables around dishes.  I quickly colonize clear countertops, claiming them with the wayward flags of measuring cups and vegetable clippings destined for the balcony compost.  Pasta curls spring and bounce across the floor.  Rice scatters in celebration of the meal.  Usually.

Today, I drift, calm, through the steps.  I’m not on the phone and there’s no multitasking.  Rice has cooked while I was steaming myself in the tub; I quietly gather chickpeas cooked last night in anticipation of the full day today.  Quiet, I gather a bay leaf and a rosemary sprig from the balcony garden.

Relaxing in the kitchen?  What is this?  (Alternative text might read "Time for Tree Pose.  But not for fashion.")
Relaxing in the kitchen? What is this? (Alternative text might read “Time for Tree Pose. But not for fashion.”)

So this is what it’s like to be organized, I think.  This is what it’s like to plan ahead.  This is what it’s like to focus solely, almost meditatively, on the act of cooking.

I love cooking, any day.  Well, most days.  I love shucking off an onion’s smooth, papery skin to reveal the layered globe within.  I love removing the stiff stems from kale, love slicing through a carrot, stealing a chunk before dinner.  I love the herbs, the deep, homey scent of fresh thyme, and love knowing that at home, across the world, Mummy’s brown Jamaica tray is lined with wax paper, and then her own stash of the home-dried herb.

Cooking like this, though, cooking today, cooking calm, cooking mellowed, cooking zen, is different.  While I usually cook with a flurry of activity–banging pots and pans, the tap whirring on and off, chatting with my brother, a sister, my mum, or peeking at a cooking show on TV, peppering the food with cuss words as I stir and avoid near-spills and lament tiny burns, today, it is a gentle, deliberate act.

As I beg a sprig from the rosemary, and a leaf from the bay shrub, I feel deeply thankful.  For a good day, for this calm.  For spring to come, wrapped up in the tight promise of what looks to be a bay bud.  For the good aromas being drawn out from this food, for having this food, having this fella, having family, strewn about though we are.  As much as I celebrate (accept?) my usual, flurried cooking style, this calm is something else.  I could get used to this.

Calm makes me happy.  (p.s., that toenail polish is formaldehyde-free.)
Calm makes me happy. (p.s., that toenail polish is formaldehyde-free.)

6 Comments Add yours

  1. kyarul says:

    Nice top and pjs. #5 was happily chanting your name and gleeful to see you on screen! Sadly there is seldom cooking zen in my kitchen unless I stay up late when all are in bed. #2 has been cooking up a storm this holiday with cornflakes chocolate crispie things, pancakes, cheese straws and has his eye on falafel so as we speak chickpeas are bubbling away on the stove (oh yes. Better check recommended cooking time post soaking).
    Some time ago you sent me a recipe for gingerbread you’d found on the net. Alas searched email and couldn’t find so #5 and I googled and found this recipe which we’ve made two times now. They roll out fabulously and I add some mixed spice or garam masala and LOTS of ginger….I don’t measure but I’m sure it’s more than 4 tsps. They last 3 days in our household (if rationed to one a day per person-not for the whole family)…so you get loads!

    1. Oh, those gingerbread men look yummy! I must try. I’m a firm believer in bumping up the spice quotient in these recipes too. Sometimes more really is more.

  2. Julie says:

    Cute toes. Ok, I have some Eco-polish too-very nice. But how does one get around using nasty remover? Great post.

    1. Thank you, Julie! You make an excellent point about the nasty remover situation. I’ve been nursing along a tiny bottle of “Almost Natural” Polish Remover for a few years. Yes, that’s the name. Kind of an odd, right? The ingredients are Fruit Acid Solvent (Methylpentan-2 One, Multi-Fruit Acids), Amber Plant Acids (derived from plant linchens), Deionized Water, Vitamin A, and Natural Vanilla Fragrance. At least the ingredients are listed, I guess, unlike mainstream nail polish removers. However, it smells just as vile as mainstream nail polish remover. It’s a tricky thing, and consequently, I just don’t end up using polish very often at all. Funny you should ask though; about a day or two before you commented, I was googling just this topic. The only home-made options I saw (at cursory glance) were things like soaking in hot water and vinegar, which I have yet to try…

  3. Ally says:

    Have I ever told you that I dig your writing style?
    Consider it done 🙂

    The last time I wore (toe) nail polish was oh…back before Obama won office. The first time. How did I remove it? It just chipped off and eroded over time. That’s natural 🙂

    1. Awww, thank you 🙂 Smiles on a Monday morning.
      I like your natural nail polish removal system…the best! Let nature run its course. I’ve taken that route, too. Unfortunately, I have particularly large feet, and very large toenails. It’s hard for me to feel smug at yoga when there’s a two inch square of ragged red splayed over my mat, lol.

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