The wind began a little bluster, which grew into a nice gust and a whisper of a winter gone-by (it's cheeks puffing slightly at the effort) swept through the crinkly, spindly branches of the buck naked trees.
A small pile of dirty, snowy leaves shivered and shuddered in it's wake; they'd be blown about if they weren't icily stuck to the frost. Leaves always want to be blown about, they're made to catch the wind, sun and rain, like delicate little energy panels that flutter.
Outside the air smelled musty, smoky and cold; like a kitchen hours after bacon has been fried-- the old smell of past things still lingers on the breeze, waiting, inevitably to return.
The frying pan shall again sizzle fat and melt butter,
The house will again smell of succulent food,
The oven shall bake sweet and savory pastry again,
The clock shall again tick comfortingly the hours, minutes and seconds as they rush by,
The people will gather, part, gather and part again,
The animals will again snuggle gently for warmth; sleeping through the cold if they can,
The leaves will burst with buds into flower, then dance until they can no longer feel the beat of the music and gasping for breath that will not come, they'll shrink, lose their succulence and become wisps of their former selves, only to at last take the final swirling leap to the ground below... all, over, again.
This morning, the smell of apples frying delicately in butter filled our house; sweet, cidery perfume mingling with the salty suggestive smell of onions carmelizing... also in butter.
Butter, my friends, is delicious.
Having been a vegan for 3 years, and a vegetarian previously (for around 15 or so) I once eschewed butter; this golden, salty, sweet, full-flavored fat was stolen from cows and I could not abide eating it, while the little calves were put on formula... or worse.
Today though, I am not going to talk about dietary agendas, revelations, convictions or what is morally right and wrong for me as an individual; there's too much sadness, struggle and difficulty in residence there at the moment.
Right now, I'm going to talk about the comfort of cooking, the excitement of preparation and in short: the ecstasy of food.
We must eat to live. It is a necessary component of being a living, breathing, creature. In my opinion, we need these basic elements to survive:
Shelter: I live in a house built in 1903, with one normally pleasant, elderly ghost of a woman who lived here previously.
Water: I don't drink as much as I should, but I drink a lot more than I used to.
Love: I give it and receive it as much as possible from people, animals and the universe.
Food: I cook. Every. Single. Day. Food is one of the greatest joys of life - sustenance, pleasure, excitement, interest, work and imagination are all filled and boundless within food.
Elimination: Everybody Poops. Go read the book of the same title.
Understanding: Without understanding, there can be no acceptance or sharing - not of oneself, not of other people, not of anything. Misunderstanding lines up with frustration, which borders anger, which does not beget goodwill or respect.
Expression: Holding energy in changes the path it moves along. Holding anything, will alter the state it's in; as well as the state of the container.
These things may seem extraneous from time to time, but I'm willing to bet that everyone and everything needs them to survive.
I first began to cook when I was four. I believe I ended up with flour all over myself, the kitchen, and the adults trying to teach me how to do whatever we were doing. Each memory I have of helping to prepare some meal or tasty-tid-bit is a LOVELY, damn good memory.
I wish I could remember exactly every meal. Instead, I can recall the exact flavours of the dishes I loved - but I've no idea the number of times I've tasted them.
I also remember meals, snacks and times with food that were awful - I've spoken about this before - bad mood = bad food. Say it with me, "BAD MOOD EQUALS BAD FOOD!"
Good job. (I'm a firm believer in positive reinforcement.)
Cooking is something that is constant in life, though most people don't cook to save themselves the tire, hassle, mess and above all, time. We're taught that time = money, and no one has the time to make a pie-crust from scratch (Flour, water, fat, salt) let alone make biscuits, cookies, cakes, casseroles, salads, stews or really, any dish that requires even a small amount of chopping, mixing or stirring. People like to take something, zap it in the microwave and eat it. Quickly. TV dinners are still extremely popular, as are frozen bagged meals.
"If you can boil water, you can make this!"
"Just add water, empty the packet contents into the pan, and VOILA! INSTANT- DINNER!"
"Cook on high for 2 minutes. Turn. Cook an additional 2 minutes. Stir. Let cool. Enjoy!"
This is NOT cooking.
GASP! Can she SAY that? Is that true? I'm adding a heating element to edible things, that's cooking, isn't it?
No. It isn't. Don't try to pretend that pushing a button on a microwave, or just because you've found you're capable of turning on the oven or the burner (good job) is cooking. It. Is. NOT.
Cooking means taking basic ingredients (read, things you KNOW are food - fruits, vegetables, fats, herbs, spices and proteins) and preparing, seasoning and combining together with a heated or non heated element that results in something delicious from SCRATCH that will nourish your body, mind, soul and spirit.
Cooking is not adding a flavor packet to a something boiling in a pot of water. It just isn't.
Julia Child is AMAZING. I love the book (as well as the movie) of "Julie and Julia." It's good stuff. However, most of us probably couldn't follow a recipe in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Most of us have difficulty following the high-altitude instructions (oh wait, usually there AREN'T ANY) on a box of noodles.
I am blessed, because I grew up in a family where cooking was taken for granted. We cooked most meals, special occasion foods, and even basic bread ourselves. It wasn't until my mom got extremely busy with her work, that we had the occasional frozen entree dinner, and believe me it did NOT taste like my mom's REAL version.
In this day and age, with everything labeled "HEALTHY," and assigned numbers for it's nutritional content, we forget what food really is. Food is grown, not poofed into existence. Things like popcorn, tortilla chips and potato chips can all be made ridiculously easily at home, but we don't have the time.
Well, if you end up stuck with a bunch of crappy food allergies, you MAKE the time.
I had asthma until I was about 25 years old. I was born almost a full 3 months early and they told my folks I'd be the kid who had immune deficiencies my whole life; that I'd be on allergy meds, steroid creams and inhalers and all of that stuff. That my system "would never work properly." Well, it's not true. I have FOOD allergies. Rash causing, sniffles inducing, coughing, puking, sneezing, itchy, hive-y, pimply, ASTHMA triggering food allergies.
Now I'm dealing not only with the food allergies, but the effects of 25 years of corticosteroids and allergy drugs that were forced into my system. Suppress, suppress, suppress...
I don't have asthma any more. I rarely have eczema, hives, sneezing or coughing fits (unless I have a legitimate cold, or come in contact with mold, dust-mites or something I'm allergic to that was in the food I ate).
FOOD IS IMPORTANT.
Sometimes I cry about my lot in life; I'm sure we all do from time to time. It's part of being a person with feelings. I occasionally become angry with my body, with all it's high-maintenance B.S., but the truth of the matter is, it's me. It's my body and I have to take care of it and love it, and trust it to somehow communicate to my consciousness what's going on inside it.
I have been forced to know, explore and understand every single thing that goes into my mouth. If I don't pay attention, I have unpleasant reactions, and my body punishes me for deliberately thwarting what it's told me it needs.
Life isn't about shortcuts. Food shouldn't be short-changed or played around with (unless it's experimenting with a new ingredient or recipe). What we eat, where it comes from, whether it's sustainable, fair-trade, humanely raised and harvested: THESE ARE IMPORTANT.
Everyone needs to COOK more and UNDERSTAND more about where their ingredients come from.
A roommate of mine used to subscribe to cable T.V. (we don't have a T.V. at home anymore) and I used to watch the Food Network. I love the Food Network. It's fun to watch. However, I once saw an episode of a "cooking show," by accident (I don't like the way this female does her show --- I won't name names, but her first and last names start with the same letter and rhyme with Achel A).
She was "teaching," people how to "cook," by taking pre-made, frozen foodstuffs and baking them in the oven; to go along with boiling frozen peas. She was speaking slowly and smiling at the camera, exclaiming things in her raspy, abrasive voice and cheerfully spreading out the "food," on the cookie sheet.
This is utter and complete crap. I give her kudos for doing what she believes in, but clearly, I beg to differ on her definition of cooking.
Firstly, boiling peas is defrosting them so they're edible. It's not cooking. It's step one to making a meal with a side dish of peas, or to adding peas to a soup or other dish. Secondly, taking something store-bought and warming it in your oven is not cooking. If people at home (watching the show) don't know how to boil water and turn their oven on, then the state of our food preparation system is in deeper trouble than I thought.
This "chef," thinks that quick frozen meals are cooking? I think NOT. How someone can get paid for following instructions on the back of the bag for a quick fix meal, is beyond me. I find it insulting to my intelligence, and I think that shows such as this one, touting basic re-heating methods as cooking are pathetic and dreadful.
Teach people the trick to dicing onions! How to julienne carrots! How to peel garlic! How to season things properly! About the smoke points of oils and fats! Which pan to use for what! The importance of tasting ingredients from start to finish!
Those things are important. Not how to gosh darn defrost ready-made, preservative laden, trans-fatty, highly processed "food." That stuff shouldn't even pass for food. If you look at a label and you can't pronounce the ingredients, put it back.
Buy some veggies, sea salt, protein and fat and COOK dammit!
It does NOT take that much time. Maybe an extra 2 minutes to chop. You're still throwing it into a warming/hot skillet/pot/pan. It will taste better, it's better FOR your body, and it's FUN!
You are what you eat, and all that entails. Give your body food. Give it the basics. Don't muck around with "I don't have time," this and "it's too complicated," that. Your body is the most important resource you have- your very LIFE depends on it.
So treat it well, take it home and cook it dinner to show it how much you care. Your body is your "one and only," after all.