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The Joy of . . . Cooking!

April 18, 2007

JoyFind something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.
Julia Child

Chers Amis,

What makes  you joyful?  What can pull you out of the doldrums and cheer you up?    I’ve been mulling these questions over for the last few days since Angel proposed a weekly Eastertide carnival on Finding Joy . Last night as I soaked in a hot bath (one of the great refreshers in life) it came to me . . . cooking! Cooking makes me joyful. I love to cook and I find great solace, peace and accomplishment in preparing a meal or a special dish. Now,  I’m not talking about my everyday assembly-line preparation of PB&J or boiling hot dogs, but rather cooking when there is  enough time in the equation to plan, imagine and relish the creative process, usually, when dh can run interference watch the children.

When I was in college and even in the throes of studying and final exams, I would always stop to make dinner for my roommate and me.  Somehow I felt justified in taking time away from the books to melt the butter and focus not on the conjugation of irregular verbs, but on chopping and mincing. I find that cooking can be meditative when you remove your attention from the negativity around you and concentrate on a small immediate task like stripping the leaves off a branch of rosemary, crushing mint or grating lemon zest.   The colors and aromas of the kitchen quickly replace cheerless thoughts of unfolded laundry and cluttered desks.  One of the few times I listen to music is when I am at the stove. No negative talk-meisters, just the chop-chop-chop metronome of my favorite knife keeping time with  the radio.   

    I also see a lot of similarities between finding and keeping a sense of joy and cooking.  Why do you lose your sense of joy and get discouraged?  Write it down for a few days and a pattern will appear.  For me it is usually tied in some way to: hormones, lack of sleep, lack of preparation or bad timing, and allowing negativity in my life.   The key is to recognize the biggest triggers and avoid them just as you would in the kitchen and come up with solutions.   If you have ever had a culinary disaster, you know what I mean. I’ll use a few real life examples to make my point.

The whipped cream that wasn’t. Some things in life – and cooking – cannot be avoided and it is best to recognize that fact.  Know when your bad days are and don’t try to solve the world’s or you family’s problems then.  It just won’t work.  One July our air conditioner died.  Not good in Hotlanta.  It was my dh’s birthday weekend and I was intent on making a his favorite chocolate cake roll with whipped cream filling.  FYI – no matter how long you chill the beaters or the bowl, you cannot whip cream at 90 degrees + and high humidity.  You will make very nice lumpy butter – no cream.  Don’t beat yourself up.  It is a fact – just like hormones and lack of sleep.  Accept it and work around it. Buy whipped cream in a can instead.

The raw turkey –  We all have nightmares about showing up to a test that we had forgotten about.  In everyday life I can lose a good mood in a second when I realize that I was responsible for bringing drinks to book club and forgot or see (only after a long drive) that there was no choir practice scheduled for this afternoon. Preparation is key.  One year my mother hosted Thanksgiving.  Dinner was set for late afternoon.  At 3:30 we realized that the turkey was more than a little al dente. Cold even. I also remember spaghetti and meatballs w/o the spaghetti and jello fruit salad w/o the jello.  Check your mental pantry and preheat your oven, it will help avoid a lot of frustration – and swearing.

Mom, how many legs does a chicken have? –  Discouragement and negativity are always on the prowl and I am amazed how often I open the door and let them in!  Some people can watch scary, violent or depressing movies and be unaffected.  Not I.  Having a few working brain cells, I have learned not to read Stephan King or novels about dysfunctional families/characters, but how often do I listen to the news or talk radio when it does nothing to benefit my mind? I don’t advocate cutting oneself off from society, but if you know the facts on a tragic shooting/accident/incident are going to be replayed for then next week turn it off.   Keep a lid on it –  the crock pot I mean.  Once when I was a child we broke the lid to my mom’s crock pot and substituted a plate.  Either the plate was loose or it was – occupied.  When we sat down to dinner, we discovered the chicken had an extra 6 legs.  If you have even been to Florida you might remember palmetto bugs –  think giant roach. ICK!   Someone suggested a once a week ‘news/radio fast’ and it can be a good
thing.  Moderate what you see and listen to since once it creeps in it
can affect your mood and zap your joy.

Joy is the spice in life.  Find what creates it for you and sprinkle liberally.  Maybe it is getting outdoors, or listening to music, snuggling with a child , talking to a friend or even cooking. Add a pinch and have a joyful day and bon appétit!

— Marjorie


2 Comments leave one →
  1. hélène permalink
    April 19, 2007 3:36 am

    Pour un autre post sur un sujet similaire, je te conseille :

  2. April 19, 2007 5:31 pm

    Such a great post, Marjorie. Lots of “food” for thought. 😉

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