One of the things that brings me a lot of joy (I can’t leave posts that feel negative hanging in the air… so here we are with Now For Something Completely Unrelated) is spending time in the kitchen with people I love. Some of this is coming from a Giant Family, in which food, culture, love, and bonding are all pretty inextricably tied. I recall fondly the year that I was “old enough” (read: tall enough to reach the counter) to join my myriad of aunts and uncles in the kitchen as we prepared holiday meals. It made me feel included, connected, and like I was part of something much larger than myself or a meal. I was part of a familial ritual, and had come of age, in a way. Because the stories come along with the food and its making. In any event, making food is as important to me as eating it, and should be at least half of the fun.
Making things from scratch was a reality of my childhood, in part because once the bills were paid… we really didn’t have a lot left over. I never knew it explicitly at the time, but when I was five or six, Ma often only had $30 for a weeks’ worth of groceries for a family of four. She didn’t buy Wonderbread — we made our own. We never had soda in the house, unless it was someone’s birthday. My brother was allergic to milk in a pretty serious way, so things like cheese and cookies, candy, ice cream, and snackie cakes were never a part of our pantry. I didn’t eat a slice of pizza until I was probably nine or ten years old (it was at a birthday party), and honestly? I didn’t really like it at the time, though I certainly didn’t say so aloud. I know now that my parents often went to bed hungry so that my brother and I could have second helpings.
As a result of all of that, both my brother and I know our way around a kitchen, are pretty adept at knowing what portions look like, and know how to stretch food over a week. Leftovers for lyfe, y’all. Put that ish on some eggs — it’s an omelet! Add it to a salad — Fancy salad! Can you throw more vegetables in? Casserole! How about some cheese? Quiche! Is it good with tomatoes? Make it into red sauce, and pour it over spinach and kale! Needless to say, problem-solving in the kitchen is way more fun when you actually have the resources to do so. I will probably never lose the habit of looking at what’s in the fridge and thinking, “Hmm… how can I get two more meals out of that?” Seriously, it’s like Xeno’s paradox sometimes. I believe leftovers are infinitely divisible into breakfasts and lunches, if I’m just creative enough about it. Having a partner in crime just makes it more fun.
Anyway, Tomthulhu and I are spending this evening preparing for LARP this weekend. In his infinite wisdom, he emailed me this as an idea for something paleo, protein dense, and delicious that will yield at least 5-6 meals. So this evening after work, I am the Errand Bunny, with a pretty shopping list full of delicious things. Making our own hot stuff (not a euphemism) is constantly on our List of Things We Ought to Do, so I’m excited to spend some of this evening making our own adobo sauce, and preparing a brisket for impending glory.
Acts of cooperative creation are a huge bonding experience. Appreciation of excellence and beauty (which includes things that are handmade and tasty) is high on my list of personal virtues, and having an opportunity to create something over the course of a relaxing evening with someone I love sounds pretty amazing. I know a lot of people think of making dinner after a tough day at work and say, “uh, how about takeout?” But honestly, there are few things that help me feel more relaxed and energized than setting up a mise en place with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and some jazz on Spotify and someone to lend helping hands, stir that roux, or provide a playful butt squeeze. There is a great intimacy in quietly creating something beautiful with two sets of hands.
In other words, I’m looking forward to this evening.