Monday, March 10, 2014

Sunday afternoon in the kitchen

I find the act of cooking or baking to be soothing: the motions associated with being in the kitchen - measuring, mixing, chopping, stirring - are familiar and timeless, and whether I'm following a recipe or making it up as I go, being in the kitchen generally grounds and centers me.

C and I often cook together, moving around our kitchen in a pattern of not-exactly-choreographed dance steps. There is the occasional toe being stepped on or fumble as we reach for the same knife or wooden spoon, but, for the most part, our rhythms are completely in sync and we twirl around one another adding ingredients to whichever dish we are making and end up with something that we are both equally proud (or not proud) of and take pleasure in eating meals that we have prepared together. Food just tastes better when it's made with a little extra love, as cliche as that may be.

I have gotten comfortable with being half of the cooks in our kitchen - the routine of having music on and all the lights turned up and keeping track of my partner is familiar to me. Rarely am I in the kitchen alone these days; even if I'm baking, my husband is there, not quite hovering, but handing me ingredients and washing my measuring cups, a presence that I feel even if I'm the only one holding a mixer.

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself in the kitchen alone for the first time in a while. C had gone to run some errands. We were making French Onion soup for dinner, and I had several snacks to prep for book club. My darling husband sliced a mountain of onions for me before he left, but I was on duty to babysit the onions as they cooked low and slow for over an hour, turning into melty slivers of deliciousness that we would make into soup. While stirring occasionally with one hand, I did prep work for the rest of my recipes: softening cream cheese, cracking eggs, opening cans.

I stood in my kitchen in my bare feet, sunlight streaming in and providing enough light that I didn't have to flip any switches, the TV on softly in the background. I worked methodically to make my way down the list of foods. There is something chaotically calming about having four different items cooking at once, each needing its own time and attention, but each playing nicely with the rest so that one pan goes into the oven as the other comes out and one pot simmers gently while the other gets stirred. Other than the TV, there was no chatter - no talking with C, no laughing and joking as we went through the motions, like usual. Just me and my thoughts and the sounds of cooking: whirring, humming, sizzling, boiling.

The time passed so quickly, and yet almost stood still - those moments in my kitchen alone were precious, a little chunk of time where nothing existed but me and the ingredients and the utensils. I felt myself recharging as I moved from step to step, independently responsible for each thing I created. I love to share the joy of cooking with C, but I needed those moments alone, too, much more than I realized. I was happy when I finally heard the garage door opening and C came in with his arms full of bags to find me standing among almost-completed dishes. The smells emanating from my pots were like arms reaching for him: welcome, come in, see what's I've made. I walked him through the recipes and showed him my work, proud of the things I'd created and the successes I'd had. He turned on the music and I turned on the lights and together we worked on the soup - I'd gotten the onions done perfectly, but there were more ingredients needed before it would be finished. We fell into that familiar routine with ease.

At the end of the evening, when the snacks were packed away for the next night and the dishes had been washed, we ate steaming bowls of soup and grilled cheese sandwiches that we both had worked on making and put effort into making just right. It was a perfect combination of my own, personal time and my favorite way to spend time with my husband, and the results were delicious.

beautiful roasted garlic for hummus
a lovely pair... just like C & I ;)


Lisa C said...

Such a sweet post! I love when Mac wants to help. His normal MO is that he can't cook, so he doesn't even try, haha.

Stephanie @ My Freckled Life said...

Awww, this was adorable, and beautifully written. Clearly you inner English major is showing! But I completely agree about using baking and cooking as a great time to destress at some points, and to share in the cooking at other times. Now if only my kitchen was bigger and you actually COULD share in the cooking process!