I'm turning again to NaBloPoMo because NBPM (abbreviating an abbreviation = awesome) helped me immensely to write more back in November.
The theme for March is STRANGE(R). Who else is liking that theme? Such range and possibility! I'm going to start with apples.
Something has changed with me in the last few months. I've never liked cooking. I always felt clumsy, awkward, and inadequate in kitchens and preferred to stand around drinking wine and clean up afterward. The entire time that I lived with Sunny and Shane in Chicago, I sat on the couch in the kitchen drinking wine before dinner and all the way up until food was on the table and then would try to make up for that by doing dishes.
Since moving out of my parents' home in 1993, I got by on mediocre stir-frys, take out, salads, sandwiches, and things already half made. I tried my hand at a few recipes back in 2007 and made some attempts last year but was always pretty tense, not exactly enjoying the process.
There were a couple of times this year when M and I were cooking together and he would do something - LIKE TRY TO TALK TO ME or worse, KISS ME - and I'd get all anxious and pissy because I was busy counting minutes in my head, trying to make everything hot and ready to serve at the same time and I was sure that something would burn while I was casually and lightheartedly recounting my day.
Then, and not even slowly, it was a super quick process, cooking started to get fun. It became what people always said: just following directions. Which in and of itself was new for me seeing as I never had a use for recipes before. Moreover, it because less of just a lab experiment and more of a relaxation. Little things that used to seem like a mighty big pain in the ass, like washing lettuce or all these fresh herbs that I now like to use - is, dare I say, meditative. I can stop whatever else it is that I'm thinking about and do something physical and tangible and, suddenly, rewarding.
I GET IT. Weird.
The other thing that people always said and I didn't think I agreed with is, "It's no fun to cook just for yourself." Whatever, I thought. I didn't like feeling clumsy and inadequate but figured that it just wasn't my thing because groups of people cooking made me feel less comfortable, not more. If my eggs are going to be runny, I'd rather keep that "fun" to myself and not have to try to covertly drain them in the sink.
Maybe it's because I now have a kitchen that's mine and I'm not borrowing anyone else's, and maybe it's because I don't feel like I have to be some Donna Reed character of perfection just because I get my cook on and I'm married and I own an apron - shut up, it's black and tough looking - and cooking is something that both M and I are into learning more about.
Whatever it is, I took it to a whole new level today.
I was at Kroger and hadn't made a list. I stopped in the magazine aisle and flipped pages until I found something easy to make - chicken with asparagus in pesto cream sauce - in a Paula Dean magazine. It was delicious and heavy and DID I MENTION DELICIOUS and the next morning I read all the recipes. Most of them I wasn't going for, e.g. tater tot casserole, but I saw a photo of a perfectly beautiful apple sliced into four horizontal pieces and cemented back together with slabs of peanut butter.
I read the ingredients: two types of peanut butter, creamy and crunchy, honey, granola. Paula Dean wouldn't need to know that I'd buy organic apples, peanut butter with flaxseed, and gluten free pretzel rods to stick down the cored middles of the apples. It would look just as trashy and/or like a kid's after-school snack as the photo.
Today I made those apples and I made them with a reason. Matthew and I have been both a little worried and a little tired from things we can't control. We're letting go and chinning up but today had its suck and I thought those apple stacks in the photos looked HAPPY. I decided those apples would be sitting on the kitchen counter when M got home from work. Then I realized that wow, I'm feeding an emotion. I've eaten plenty of emotions, oh have I, but I've never ever wanted to make someone feel better by feeding them.
Guess I'll add that to the long list of things I never understood until now.
From the top they look like boobs.
I like how the one on the right is so crooked. I put the apples slices back together wrong. Paula Dean's were not crooked.