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Believe it or not, this isn’t a post about eating, or weight loss, or cravings. It’s a post about environment, and relaxation, and ritual.
I made sauce today, for the first time since before we moved into this house, over three-and-a-half years ago. My kitchen still isn’t done, but it’s almost there. And after years of using a kitchen so disgusting I hated going in there, then six months of using a thrown together, awkward, temporary kitchen, I’ve got a beautiful new space that was just begging to be cooked in.
Before we were married, back in North Carolina, The Ass and I would make these huge Italian dinners, with homemade pasta, sauce, meatballs (for him), salad, and garlic bread. After we had kids we skipped the homemade pasta – too much trouble when packaged Buitoni is so good – but I still made sauce regularly. It was like spending the day on the beach for me, a relaxing ritual that slowed me down and kept me in one place. The sauce simmers for hours as the smell creeps into every crevice.
But then we moved here, and I didn’t want to be in my kitchen for hours. I didn’t even want to be in my kitchen for minutes. I know people who can bake and cook in any circumstances. I used to watch my mother turn out hundreds of cookies in whatever kitchen was available to her. No matter how crappy the oven was, her cookies were perfect. It wasn’t about her comfort or her experience, it was about the final product. I admire that.
But for me, cooking and baking are about the journey. Sure, I want the end result to be tasty and beautiful, but even if the food doesn’t turn out exactly as I wanted it, I still got to spend hours cooking. And over the past few years I really missed that. I barely made any special meals, and I hated baking. I would turn out brownies and cupcakes for birthdays and bake sales but hated doing it.
Then today, finally, we had a working kitchen. I had been up until 2am washing dishes, and continued washing for most of today (almost every single thing had gotten covered in sawdust in the past week). Once I was done, once everything was clean, you’d think I’d want to get out of the kitchen. Instead, I got myself to the store on this frigid day and got my supplies. And spent the next few hours working on my sauce, relearning how to make it.
With a pot of sauce comes an automatic slow-down. Time to work on a project with Jake between stirs. Time to tell the kids stories about cooking with daddy before he was daddy. Then, later, after they’re in bed, time to sit down to the first thought-out, not thrown-together, meal the two of us have had with each other in a while.
The sauce isn’t even cool enough to put away yet, but I’ve already decided that chili is next. And after that, a hearty soup. And after that, something else that will give me an excuse to hang out in the kitchen for hours, and stir, and savor. It’s a real luxury to have the place and the time and the opportunity, and after missing it for so long, I’m going to try not to take it for granted.