Sunday, October 21, 2007

If I Could See Me Now

My high-school aged self sometimes watches my thirty-something self. Lately Miss High-School squints her eyes and furrows her brow. She seems familiar, Miss High-School says, but I can't quite place her.

It's not the changes in the shape of my thirty-something body (though they are substantial), or the silver streaks in my hair that befuddle Miss High-School. Nor is it the three adorable (albeit cacophonous) children that tag along with me wherever I go, or even the fact that I drive (gulp) a mini-van.

It's all the COOKING (Gasp! Hands grab face in imitation of The Scream!)--from scratch-- that I've been doing lately.

Because if there's one place in which I never envisioned spending much time, it's the kitchen.

The obstacles are two-fold. First, I never really learned how to cook. In a miniature version of a finishing school, I learned that one must accept a compliment by simply saying "thank you." I also learned one is better off washing one's face with just plain water at night if one doesn't possess a good quality moisturizing cleanser. One should never, EVER, use the plain old soap that one uses on one's Other. Body. Parts.

But cooking? It was plumb left out of my edu-ba-cation.

Second, I grew up thinking of cooking as a traditional wifely duty, a tightly-tied, corseted apron society cinched up around each woman's bodice; an evil as great as high-heels or the invention of pantyhoes. Thus, I never wanted to cook.

A few things changed my perspective on cooking.

First: I'd like to thank the Academy, (sniff sniff) and specifically Al Gore, for alerting me to the state of emergency in the Earth's environment. Because of your dedication to the survival of the human race, I started investing in Community Supported Agriculture (sniff).

As anyone who receives CSA veg each week will tell you, once you have the veg, you must figure out something to do with it. Traditionally, this will involve some sort of cooking.

Second: I examined the booty from my weekly shopping trip to Trader Joe's one day, thinking about how many food miles the contents had traveled. Subsequently, I wrote this post, calculating (while wearing my coziest Fuzzy Math Sweater) the number of miles contained in my shopping bags. Heather left a very nice comment, which said this (except she actual said it in a very kind, easy-to-receive way):

Hey there, Dysfunctional Environmental Wanna Be! Rather than trying to find local reproductions of the nasty, unhealthy, highly-processed blech you've been buying, why don't you fish out the ol' User Manual, figure out how to operate your OWN STOVE, and try your hand at some actual COOKING? Maybe start by using INGREDIENTS THAT YOU CAN PRONOUNCE that have been produced in your area?

I read the comment. Then, like Homer Simpson learning from Child Protective Services' Parenting Class that garbage goes in the garbage can, I scratch my head dumbly, and said aloud, "Hmm, makes sense..."

Then I put my other, non-food-related training to work. As part of my Plan for World Domination (oh wait, that's not my plan, just my President's), I attended a Leadership Training a few years ago. Among other things, I learned this simple concept:


Thus, I set about remodeling the structure in my home in order to accommodate, support, and cherish (okay, maybe just accommodate) the amazing Creator of Meals that I would become.

To Do:

Overhaul the Kitchen (goal: reduce clutter, make things easy to find)

Specifically, Clean Out Spices I received as wedding gift in 1993 (and have rarely used since)

Find recipe books that include recipes for things grown in season

Duct TapeFigure out what to do with children during Cooking Hours

Check, check, and check.

Having procured my cookbooks, I set about making a menu and buying the appropriate ingredients (I know! Garbage goes in the garbage can!)

And guess what? I made amazing, delicious, made-from-scratch meals!

(So what if I had to look up the definition of scald in Betty Crocker's "helps" section).

I made three kinds of bread!

(So what if I used 6 oranges in order to get 1/3 cup of fresh juice, because the juicer lid got stuck the first time and I spilled all of the juice into the sink when I tried to remove the lid).

I made soup from a WHOLE chicken, which was locally grown, free-range, organic-grass-fed, and purchased from the local Farmer's Market. The chicken said, "bock bock bock bock," which translates roughly as, "Thank you for respecting me enough to use all of me and not just my breasts."

(So what if I took off the lid of the pot to check on the simmering bird and screamed when its FEET and CLAWS, having come uncurled, POPPED up over the soup pot, and refused to go back in? So what if I eventually yelled for Tobin and begged him to remedy the situation in any manner possible so that I could just put the lid back on the pot. So what if he had to lop off the chicken's feet with garden nippers, since the chicken was already half-cooked in the pot? Having attached the beater to the hand-held drill last Easter in order to stir up the separated peanut butter, we are quite familiar with unusual Cooking Solutions).

Victoriously putting the lid back on the pot, I saw Miss High-School out of the corner of my eye. She smiled and laughed as she finally recognized me.

It must be my properly moisturized skin.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Seedless in Seattle

I'm cross-posting over here tonight, showing off the bounty that comes from Seattle's furtile urban land. Ahem.