Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I'm thankful for...
Every year, Susan insists on asking us all what we are thankful for as we gather around her table, feasting. Every year, we say the same things—family and friends, a decent job, health…but, this year, what I am really grateful for is a skill, developed over the years—I am thankful that I can cook. I am not talking about gourmet five course meals here (although I have pulled off a few in my time) but daily cooking, coming home at six o’clock and making dinner, every night.
Being able to cook grounds our household in many ways. First, we are grounded in the seasonality of our foods; we eat local produce, with an occasional banana or red pepper thrown in in February. Our food is alive, not road weary, when it lands on my chopping block. Yeah, we eat a lot of kale and mustards in March and April, which can be a challenge, but they are still so much more vibrant than the tomatoes lying in a bin at Fred Meyers that we’re not really tempted. And the kale is balanced out by piles of green beans and cucumbers in late August, asparagus spears and new eggs in March, fresh potatoes and plums in September, winter squashes and cabbage in November, that is not around long enough to grow boring, even if we eat it every night for weeks. There are times when beans and rice, with sautéed greens is a bit old, but it is what’s for dinner, and we’re glad to have it. Many people don’t.
Cooking also grounds the house through ritual. Every night, when the darkness settles, I light a candle and make dinner. Sometimes I have to mix bread dough, sometimes I’m making soup and salad, occasionally we’re eating a leftover casserole which I just throw in the oven. Often, as one dinner cooks, I prep the next. Bake the squash or potatoes for Tuesday night, boil the beans for soup, wash more lettuce for later in the week. There is a small chart on the fridge, laying out the week’s lunches and dinners. Each week is a small circle. When dinner is ready, we set the table and sit down to eat. Afterwards, Mark washes the dishes. I have always done this, even when I lived alone. Sitting down to eat is civilized and focuses the day.
There are larger rituals around food as well. In the late summer, I’m preserving for the winter—and opening the first can of tomatoes is a sign that winter has really begun. There are the foods that we only eat around holidays—the Lucia Buns that we take to the barn for breakfast in December, the stollen that we eat on Christmas morning, coconut cream pie for Hot Cross Buns on Easter all mark the seasons as well as the first raspberry does. There are cookies that only taste right on a rainy day in late June, because that is when I first ate them.
All of this keeps us healthy --physically, mentally, and spiritually. Our food tastes good and I know what is in it and where it all came from. We don’t eat a lot of junk, although we are huge fans of desert. We do eat the Dr. Honeyman recommendation of two cups of veggies a day, eyeballed on the plate. Cooking becomes a form of meditation, as way to clear my mind from the day just past. Through our food, we acknowledge the seasons, the circles of the year. And we eat a lot of kale….