Wednesday 15 August 2012

The alchemy of food

Some days I'm just plain bored of cooking! Do you feel like that sometimes? I love cooking and place (rather too much) importance on the regular production of delicious nutritious meals....but...sometimes I just can't be bothered.

 I'll be just getting my teeth into chopping a huge mound of ash logs up for the winter and ... it's that time of the day again. Or I walk into the house at the end of a long day out with cranky hungry children and not a clue what to rustle up, or we've all just snuggled up on the sofa with some knitting and stories (it's that kind of summer in Devon) and ....well exactly. Sometimes I wish we could all just not eat for a day or two, just so I don't have to think what to cook.

But then sometimes I build up to an enormous crescendo of baking, churning out bread pies, biscuits, quiches....just to make it worth turning the oven on. When I was a kid one of the greatest sins was putting only one thing at a time in the oven...I don't think I have  really ever grown out of it, and of course it does make perfect financial and environmental sense!! And about three quarters of the way through the enormous crescendo, where everyone has decided to get fully involved, dinner is still a long way off and my tiny kitchen counter is a jumble of dirty dishes, chopped vegetables coated in flour, and four unfinished baking projects, I realise I'm not having fun anymore. I'm flustered agitated, snappy and  flushed and I just want to throw everything in the compost bin and run into the woods. The words, 'I just need to get this finished now and would you please go and play?' have been uttered, sometimes not so nicely, and with little effect.

It doesn't feel very nourishing.

And neither was yesterday's dinner, a pale unimaginative pasta that felt like wading ankle deep through mud, with some over steamed cauliflower and tofu. That was sort of how I was feeling when I was cooking it and it showed!

So I was surprised today to be making pasties, having torn myself away from the ash logs and the sofa, and quite enjoying it. It was late, Tansy and Leo were fighting over cleaning the rat cage out, and coming in periodically to drop rat cleaning rags into the sink near where I was working. I was tired and a bit grumpy. Conditions were not favourable. And I was uninspired by the thought of little cubes of carrot and potato going into my pasties yet again. Things were teetering on the edge of spiralling downhill rapidly when I found an enormous bunch of chard in my veg box and started chopping it and singing all twelve verses of Green grow the rushes oh! You don't know that song? Tansy and Leo were involved immediately and all rat issues were forgiven and forgotten. But tell me just who were the Rivals and the Lily white boys? Or the Proud Walkers for that matter?

So the chard went in with some sauteed onions and some chopped celery....Hmm chard and goat cheese would be a better bet, a hint of nutmeg? A zest of orange? Some raisins and toasted hazelnut? Buttery short crust pastry. Suddenly I felt like I was creating a bit of magic. I was enjoying myself, I twirled Tansy round the kitchen...(mainly to distract her from her current wobbly tooth which was quite literally dangling by a thread and spitting blood everywhere) the spices and fruits married in the pan in a fragrant mellow nuttiness, the dough baked to buttery perfection, melting goats cheese..mmmm!

That's how to prepare food!
You know it's strange, everyone ate much more calmly tonight, everyone went to sleep quietly.

Have you ever seen the film Like Water for Chocolate? It was always one of my favourites, although I haven't seen it for years. I have always longed to cook quail in rose petal sauce with as much love as Tita did.

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