Some people like to get a manicure now and then. Some people go to Yoga class a few nights a week. Some like to buy really nice shoes, and some fly remote-control quad-coptors. There are, I’m sure, a million other little luxuries that people indulge in that I know nothing about.
As for me, I like to cook. It’s chopping, stirring, baking, and the drizzling of olive oil that soothes me, that feels like a special treat. And then, of course, the eating! I have always loved to eat delicious food, and then I learned how to make food, and I became obsessed.
Cooking is such a strange thing to consider a luxury. After all, anyone who has to eat must prepare food, or find someone willing to prepare it for them. And yet, there’s a certain type of meal preparation that seems to be gaining value and appreciation. Creating meals from raw ingredients, from scratch, is a cultural movement, and one that I gladly consider myself a part of.
I found this recipe for Green Goddess Sandwiches. Not only are the photos gorgeous, the ingredients are also just the sort of thing I like. Crunchy cucumbers, smooth avocado, crisp lettuce, and wheat bread – I’m sold. I added the ingredients to my grocery list, knowing that the sandwich would take a lot of extra time to make, but knowing that it would be worth it.
The day when I made them was warm, and the sun shone on our back porch. The kids spent most of their time out on the back porch, or down in the yard. There is nothing like a day nice enough for Little Dude and Little Miss to go out and get dirty, maybe sample a few insects, move rocks around, and stomp all over the strawberries. All the extra space minimizes fighting, and pulling up grass can entertain them for a good thirty minutes. That morning I particularly needed the mental rest this provided, since I’d had a job interview the day before, and I was preoccupied with wondering whether or not I’d get it, as well as what all our lives would be like if I did.
Definitely not so many mornings of drinking coffee and writing in my notebook when my household tasks allowed.
Just before lunch, I pulled out the ingredients. I’ll admit, I hadn’t bought quite everything, and I wasn’t going to make up the excellent-looking aioli used in the recipe. The kids wouldn’t eat it, and I didn’t want to have to wash out the blender after I made aioli for one person’s sandwich.
So, I made my sandwiches with cucumbers, avocado, mayo, a crunchy lettuce mix, and fresh basil leaves.
I made thin, thin slices of cucumber. I just love the way light shines through them when their cut, that magical pale green jelly around the seeds. Plus, the kids love cucumber. Little Miss always calls them pickles, even when they’re fresh.
It always amazes me how many different things my knife can do. It’s taken years to learn how to cut up different types of veggies for different types of recipes. But this one thing, depending on how I use it, can slice cucumber, and also break down an avocado. A slice around that giant seed in the middle, a twist to separate the halves, and then a whack to drive the edge into the seed. Another twist to pull it out.
I scooped the fatty innards of the avocado out with a spoon, and then sliced it. It was just ripe enough, which is such a tricky thing with avocados. I’ve learned how to pick them, for the most part, but sometimes I cut one open before it’s quite ready, and the flesh is the texture of watery plastic.
I sliced some circles of mozzarella, too, knowing that would probably be the kids’ favorite part. Little Miss and Little Dude can eat their body-weight in cheese, especially fresh mozzarella.
I love the part of cooking where all the ingredients are ready, and then it’s time to assemble the food. Ah, look, here before me is all this stuff. Now, watch as I turn it into a thing!
For the kids, I put mozzarella and cucumber slices between two pieces of bread. Even that seemed like it might not go over great, so I made it even more attractive by cutting it into a heart shape with a giant cookie-cutter. Then I hoped Little Dude wouldn’t throw all the cucumbers on the floor.
For my sandwich, I added everything, piled up in all these lovely green layers between some lovely, hearty wheat.
The kids, amazingly, ate their whole sandwiches. Not a single cucumber fell on the ground.
And I consider myself very fortunate that I could sit and eat my sandwich with a book in my hand. It was as tasty as it looks, and the textures were just exactly right. I felt like, for a few minutes, I sat in a little cafe, with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norris in my hand.
I’ll take some time with a perfect sandwich and a book over a manicure any day, but that’s just me.
Speaking of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norris, what a great book! I don’t understand how I didn’t know about this novel before, because it is everything that I like. It’s as if Jane Austen had decided to write a book about wizards.
It is also a gigantic book, rivalling even the last few Harry Potter books in thickness, and with dense paragraphs. It might take me weeks to read it, and then I probably ought to get back to modern-day science fiction.
I’m still looking for a published book that I can use as comparison to the book I’ve written. Supposedly the industry very much likes when an author can do this, because it helps narrow down the market where the book will succeed, and it also indicates that the author has read a lot and knows what he or she is talking about. Either I’ve written a really oddball book, or I just haven’t read enough yet to be able to find its place in the literary world.
Last week, I didn’t write much, but I cooked a lot. It doesn’t satisfy my need to make things in exactly the same way, but it’s sufficient, and it has the bonus of being something necessary. The family has to eat, and I can make them food.
Little Miss and Little Dude don’t get much from the writing I do, except perhaps a calmer, more centered parent.
In all the preparations for my new job, writing was definitely pushed clear off the stove. There was paperwork to fill out, meetings to attend, and clothing to buy. And if there’s one thing that crushes all the energy out of me, it’s shopping for clothes. Trying on twenty different pairs of pants, none of which fit, and none of which I even like, drains the inspiration right out of my body. Several days this week I returned home from the stores exhausted, and unable to write a word.
Those days, I was glad to make dinner. I savored the roasting of chicken and the rising of pizza dough. After a few good meals, I found my energies recharged. Today, I’ve been able to write again, to further my story while crunching on granola and drinking coffee.
I still haven’t found a pair of pants, though.