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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is certain — and when I say nothing, I mean nothing — I can com home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. — Julie Powell in Julie & Julia

I grew up watching The French Chef on television. I hear Julia’s voice telling me that whenever I flip something, I need to have the courage of my convictions. (I rarely do.) While I adore Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I actually get more use out of Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom.

A couple of years ago I wanted to make a nice, simple potato leek soup. I pulled out a giant Gourmet cookbook promising to have every recipe I might want to cook … except potato leek soup. In Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, it is one of the very first “master” recipes. It was perfect, and I use it often.

The simple recipes, made with quality ingredients, are often the best. They really taste like their ingredients, and yet the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Tonight’s meal wasn’t quite so simple — mushroom and cheese omelette, mashed potatoes, and steamed zucchini — but it reminded me how satisfying and pleasurable a thoughtfully cooked meal is and how much happier I am when I eat real food I have prepared myself from ingredients (i.e. not a frozen pizza). With that in mind, I am forming if not a plan then an intention to do more cooking from the shelves of cookbooks in my house, test out the Joule I received as a gift, and maybe finally get through some of my Rouxbe cooking classes.

I will keep you posted on how it goes.

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And in which the author gets perhaps a little more personal than usual.

I am not much of a fan of New Year’s Resolutions because such a specific label is restrictive, as if there is only one day a year when you can resolve to make changes and improvements in your life.  Then, if you don’t follow through for some reason, do you have to wait until the next January 1st to start again?

I think not.

Every day is an opportunity to take stock of what you have (or have not) accomplished in previous days and then decide what to do going forward.

I have discovered that goals are more helpful, motivating, and achievable, if they are a combination of general and specific.  For example, I find “get some exercise at least five days a week” to be a more realistic achievement than “run five miles a day.”  Sometimes goals evolve from being vague to specific.  After I finished one knitting project which had been lingering for quite some time, “knit more” evolved into “finish these three projects by the end of the year.”  I didn’t specify an order or hierarchy for the projects, and I am not going to worry about actually having more than three unfinished projects (not to mention other projects I want to start).  Instead, I am going to stick with these three.  I think it helps that they are a bit of a mixed bag.  The largest project is the simplest (no fancy pattern).  The smallest project is the most complicated, and the one in between is, well, in between.  The current order seems to be to finish the middle project first and then alternate between the large, simple project and the small, complicated project, but that may change.  The point is that I keep making progress and even if I don’t do any knitting for several days, it is easy to pick up where I left off because I have a plan.

As a contradiction, the specific reading goal of fifty-two books a year is finally working out.  Last year I managed fifty-three, so this year, the goal is to read fifty-five books.  So far, so good, and hopefully it is a long-term trend which I can continue.

Cooking goals remain nebulous beyond “read cookbooks, try new recipes, be mindful of ingredients and where they come from, support local farmers and businesses,” but that’s okay because I think that it is working well so far.  I eat less processed food, and while my brain occasionally craves a fast food hamburger, my taste buds remember that the food I cook tastes so much better.  I do have a subscription to an online cooking school which I need to work into the schedule somewhere somehow, but I haven’t figured out how to make that work just yet.

My favorite accomplishment so far this year is the successful baking of oatmeal cookies, but they deserve their own post, which fits in nicely with the goal I really wanted to discuss in this post: writing.

Writing used to be a necessary cathartic process to quiet the clamoring voices in my head.  As I have made progress on various projects and goals and have generally found a better balance between work and life, the voices have quieted significantly on their own, so that while I still enjoy writing, it is not quite the necessary survival skill that it has been in the past, which means that I often find myself thinking, “I should write about that at some point,” but I don’t make it to “some point,” especially if I am going through a “stay away from the computer while not at work” phase.  (Now *there* is an extreme compound, complex sentence for you.  Watch out Marcel Proust!)

With the advent of the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo, I have decided to set a goal of getting back to writing.  I have given myself the choice of writing a blog post a day for thirty days or finishing a draft of the cookbook.  Obviously, I am starting with the blog, but I think that I will end up doing a combination of the two with the notion that if it takes thirty days to make or break a habit and if I can write every day for thirty days, then at the end of the month, I will have a new good habit.  That’s the plan at any rate.  We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, I wanted to share the following story which came in one of the e-mail newsletters I received from the NaNoWriMo folks because I just love the positive power possibilities of the written word.  Enjoy!

Wrimo Spotlight
“My daughter Logan is borderline autistic and deals with extreme anxiety. She struggles significantly when things are not “perfect”, and just couldn’t get her words on the page. Any more than five sentences was a struggle for her. Still, I decided to try and see what would happen if I signed her up for NaNoWriMo.

By midmonth, she had attended her first write-in with my students and after that was writing non-stop. By the end of the month, she had written more than double her 1,000-word goal. What’s more, she had become a completely different child.

She was so excited about her writing, she was carrying her manuscript everywhere, had read her story to the whole class, and was writing like mad. It’s been inspiring to see the happiness and ease writing now brings her.” — Holly B.

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