Despite a low key holiday season that involved minimal travel (which we could do in a car!) and lots of relaxing, hiking, skiing and eating, I found the holidays, like always, to be a little stressful. There are so many expectations built up around holidays, and one of the hardest parts of being a married adult has been learning how to maneuver our holidays. I think we did pretty well this year, but it wasn't without some heartache and missing my family and friends dearly.
So, to ward off the holiday blues and homesickness, I took to the kitchen. I find so much comfort in planning menus, researching new recipes and even grocery shopping to find just what I need. There was a time when I ruled out recipes that included ingredients that seemed hard to find. Now I say bring it on because I love getting it just right. So, this year, instead of dwelling on how much I missed my family in Minnesota or worrying too much about meeting family expectations, I spent my season in the kitchen. I cooked French feasts, Japanese feasts, tapas feasts, Italian feasts... (As you can see, I love themed dinners.) I planned and executed an elaborate homemade Thanksgiving dinner. I cooked and baked and candied all of the Christmas presents we sent our families. I cooked cocktail snacks and desserts and dips and all of the holiday treats. We hosted cocktail parties and get togethers and dinners with friends. No one who came to our house during the past six weeks ever went hungry, that's for sure.
I found myself pretty wiped out last weekend, but instead of lying around reading in front of the fire, which is what Andrew lobbied hard for, I spent my free hour in between helping a friend move and having friends over for dinner making a chocolate tart. And that made me so happy. A focused, calm mind melting chocolate and pressing out crust. Small pleasures. I think Ruth Reichl describes it pretty perfectly. Meditation at the edge of the knife. The best kind.
“Every kitchen is filled with flames and shards, fire and glass, boiling liquids and sharp objects eager to attack you. Cooking is too dangerous to permit distraction. If you step into that arena without the proper respect, you will certainly get hurt.
'Blood!' screamed a sign over the stove in my first professional kitchen. Beneath, spelled out in large letters, were the appropriate steps to be taken in case of severed appendages, injured limbs, or major burns. Peril pounces on the careless cook, and for me this lurking menace is part of the attraction. I have found that meditation at the edge of the knife makes everything seem better.
But while cooking demands your entire attention, it also rewards you with endlessly sensual pleasures. The sound of water skittering across leaves of lettuce. The thump of a knife against watermelon, and the cool summer scent the fruit releases as it falls open to reveal its deep red heart. The seductive softness of chocolate beginning to melt from solid to liquid. The tug of sauce against the spoon when it thickens in the pan, and the lovely lightness of Parmesan drifting from the grater in gossamer flakes. Time slows down in the kitchen, offering up an entire universe of small satisfactions.”
- Ruth Reichl, from Garlic and Sapphires