Few chores accentuate the Groundhog Day aspects of life as well as cooking and kitchen cleaning. Boil, serve, eat. Tidy, scrub, sweep. Bask in the shiny kitchen millisecond, and then – BAM – do it all over again.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
We Westerners place high priority on good habits and consistent routines. We start the indoctrination early: make your bed, brush your teeth, read for 30 minutes. Do all of these things each and every day, sometimes more than once. We explain to our children, the way our parents explained to us, the threat of painful cavities, the consequences of being lazy. We explain these things hoping our young teeth brushers will grow up to keep their grass cut, their mortgages paid.
Some are quick studies, instant masters of their own universes. Others are non-conformist Lost Boys, even if they are girls, sure that regular showering means surrendering to The Man. Perhaps, they think, it’s an escapable prison, this tyranny of tedium. Don’t buy a house, don’t get a dog. Eat meals out and ride public transportation. No commitments, no regrets. Live free or die.
Then as we get older we learn that life isn’t ever a set-it-and-forget-it proposition no matter how few our possessions or relationships. Some amount of continuous care and feeding will be required, some degree of participation. For each of us, for all of us, there is always at least some thread of routine.
So we pep ourselves up with bright stickers and phone apps to remind us to change the oil every 3,000 miles, to perform monthly self-exams, to balance our checkbooks. We print colorful checklists and check the boxes. Just look at how much we’ve accomplished.
And when we turn to the new, unmarked checklist and see the tasks we’re about to conquer, so often we focus solely on the tasks, the history of mastery, the things that are always the same. We will clean that kitchen in 20 minutes or less, tidy one room each day, and still get the bills paid on time. We are well-rehearsed.
We look at those tasks, drawing on our past successes, and we miss the secret that’s hiding in the blank, unchecked box, the secret that we get to start over, start anew, no matter how many times we’ve X’d the same item on a prior list.
Lather, rinse, repeat. It means the day is ours for fresh eyes to see, even on an old familiar path.
Food | Week of December 1, 2014
‘Round here, it’s time for something warm and cozy – warm and cozy and colorful, because it doesn’t take long for the early darkness to make me feel a bit down and sleepy. To the rescue come carrots, beets (don’t say you don’t like them until you’ve tried this, my favorite recipe), peppers, and all manner of greens.
Celery Soup | Ham Biscuits
It’s been a while since I first posted this recipe for Jane Grigson’s Celery Soup, one of only two keepers I’ve found on Food52. I use leftover mashed potatoes if I have them, which makes things move along quickly. Even with the butter and cream the soup is light tasting, so tiny ham biscuits make the perfect pairing. If you’re not up for biscuit making, then look for Marshall’s in the freezer section. If you’ve got the time and inclination to bake, these treasures from Gourmandistan are worth the effort.
This pork tenderloin recipe from Bon Appétit is now a staple in our kitchen. Slice some fresh carrots and red onion, toss in olive oil and roast 1t 370 degrees for about 20 minutes while the meat rests. Serve with some warm French bread.
Scorched Peppers | Jasmine Rice | Lamb Patties
Sweet peppers look festive, no matter the season. And yes, I know they aren’t in season anywhere near me; but the bit of brightness is important. This recipe from David Tanis is easy and delicious – and probably unlike anything you’re accustomed to. Pair the peppers with jasmine rice and lamb patties, or cook the rice in coconut milk and skip the meat for a hearty vegetarian dinner.
The cooking order here should actually be beets, greens and then grits, but I thought I’d lose you if I didn’t put the comfort part first. This recipe from Barefoot in Paris will convert even the pickiest beet-hater, I promise. Greens may be hard to find this time of year, but if you can find them then you’ll like this traditional Southern preparation. If not, then look for the Glory Foods brand in the canned section. I make cheese grits on the stove top: cook coarse grits in a mixture of milk and chicken stock, and stir in grated cheese at the end – takes about 20-25 minutes.
Pizza | Salad
My kids love pizza night as much as breakfast for dinner night, and pizza is much easier to vary for the different tastes in our house. This dough recipe from Mark Bittman, which I’ve posted several times before, is a sure thing. But if you are in a time crunch or just don’t want to fuss with dough, then you can purchase prepared crust at the store. The kids like plain cheese; Bernard and I like pesto and anchovy, or olive and onion – anything that makes the kids say, “Ew GROOOOOSSSSS!” And then I make them eat salad.