2011 has been a rough year.
A very rough year.
Looking back on a month that I *hoped* would bring good things, and started with such promise and success, I have to say that July …. you’re in the doghouse. You sucked too.
I lost my job this month.
So, instead of writing about anything that I’m cooking, or making, or whatever, I’m going to post pictures of the food I made for 4th of July weekend. The things that I made when it felt like everything good was on the horizon and nothing bad would happen.
I had recently learned that you could fry your own tortilla shells, and have now resolved to not eat soft tacos all that much. I tried to make puffy tacos from a respected recipe (I won’t link it until I nail it, I don’t want to embarrass myself) and that tanked on July 3rd, so I fried my small flour tortillas, and stuffed them with seared tuna, shredded lettuce, tomato, and an avocado-parsley-jalapeno crema. And they. were. awesome.
Back in July, Shauna, the amazing Gluten-Free Girl, held a pie party on Facebook. And I decided to jump in. Blueberries were the only thing on my mind in early July, so on the 3rd of July, I made a blueberry pie. And it was awesome. And I’m amazed. I’ve had problems with blueberry-based pies, being too runny, being messy, not tasting right. But this one was fantastic.
For dinner on the 4th of July, I made fried chicken, and potato salad. I made the mayonnaise for the potato salad. Like, made it from scratch, from egg yolks and vinegar and lemon juice and olive oil and… I was so proud of it. And then I mixed the mayo with the potatoes and learned a fundamental issue: Your homemade mayonnaise will run all over the place, if your potatoes are too hot when you mix them. Which…. mine were. But oh well. It was delicious, and I mixed some of the dill we got from our CSA into it, and I will definitely be making mayonnaise again. For sure.
And then for dinner, we had this. The last slices of pie, with peach-pie ice cream that I made myself.
They were good times. It was a good weekend. And I need to remind myself of that, when things get hard and jobs are scarce and frankly, I’m getting a little afraid. I can be strong, and brave. I can get through this, and there will be pie. And fried chicken. And many other things. Good things. Again.
A lot of people have been talking lately about why we cook. Michael Ruhlman posted on his blog recently about why he cooks, and prompted his readers to respond in the comments, with why THEY cook. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. The simple answer, I guess, is because I love it.
The clearer, more honest answer, is because I love. I don’t mean necessarily because I’m in love; more because I love people. One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that in large part, I will never be able to tell the people I love how much I love them in words. I try. But I live with someone who is completely open about his feelings with me. I end up stumbling, or feeling like I can’t come up with the words. I cook because I can express love clearly, concisely, succinctly. If I invite you over for dinner, or offer you brownies or cookies on your birthday, I am saying to you, as clearly as I know how, that I care about you and want to show you, because lord knows I’ll never be able to tell you.
I cook because sometimes life gets a little too much. Because sometimes the rituals and steps and processes of the kitchen take my mind off whatever might be going on in my life. I’ve mentioned before that my stove is my therapist, and that when things go awry, I spend 30 minutes or 45 minutes in the kitchen, and when I come out, my head is clear and my issues don’t seem so big anymore. Even the stack of dishes that I always manage to build up doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
Sometimes, I cook because I’m worried. Because I’m afraid and I’m worried about bad news. I cook at those times somewhat selfishly, taking comfort in the smell of melting butter, refuge in the feel of flour and salt, egg whites slipping through my fingers. I hide in my kitchen, and I cushion myself from the fear and the uncertainty in my life with things like baking cookies or roasting a chicken or making soup.
And sometimes….. sometimes you get wonderful news. Sometimes things are better than you could imagine, and whatever fear drove me to my butter and sugar, whatever concern lead me to crushing Heath bars or toasting walnuts has reversed itself, and everything is better than ok.
Welcome to the world, Natalie Claire Harper. I will always remember this batch of chocolate chip cookies, which I was in the middle of baking for your parents (among others) when I heard about your birth. I am so glad you’re here. I’m so glad you and your lovely mama are ok. I cannot wait to meet you.
Why do you cook? Who do you cook for? When do you cook and when do you not cook? What are you saying when you cook?