Though it’s changing rapidly, I live in the kind of neighborhood where I often run into people I know— including people I once had something in common with who I may not have seen or spoken to for years. There’s something comforting about watching us all age from afar and watching our kids grow up. Now, many of the cars I see driving herkily-jerkily around the neighborhood are driven by kids I chaperoned on countless school field trips to the zoo. Daughter #1 and her peers have just committed to colleges to attend in the fall. Sunrise, sunset.
A month or so ago, I ran into a person I hadn’t spoken to for years who, nonetheless, is part of my Facebook village. “I love all of your food postings,” she told me. “Believe or not, ” I confessed, “I haven’t felt like cooking much at all.” (In writing this post and reviewing my cooking photos over the past three months, I realize that “not feeling like cooking” for me, may not resemble “not feeling like cooking” for other people. But you get my drift).
Writers have writers’ block and cooks can have cooking block. Sometimes the two can happen simultaneously, which is a bad thing for those of us who enjoy reading and writing food blogs. In my case, the cooking block came on gradually. To coincide with upping my fitness game, I’d embarked on a healthier eating campaign, trying to limit sugar and carbs. I told you about The Food Lover’s Cleanse, which is a terrific book for foodies who don’t want to compromise taste in pursuit of health. Do yourself a favor while there’s still time and make this rhubarb applesauce for your morning serving of steel cut oats. You won’t regret it.
You readers were almost treated to an entire blog post devoted to sardines, a healthy addition to our diets that I am struggling to embrace. When Jeff is out of town, I eat them for breakfast with scrambled eggs.
Even better is this recipe for sardine rillettes that makes you understand why French women don’t get fat, or at the very least gives you some insight into their mindset.
Then my interest in cooking fizzled and I found myself wondering, “what’s the point?” Our family of four was often moving in different directions at dinner time and my kids are often not fans of my penchant for global flavors and healthy fare. We were in the middle of a stressful college decision swirl (which, I am happy to report, had a happy ending). Seattle experienced a record-breaking rainy season, replete with a persistent icy wind, which made venturing out to get ingredients unpleasant. For a number of reasons, from both a weather and a personal standpoint, it felt like spring would never arrive.
The return of inspiration came, as is often the case for me, through travel. Jeff, Daughter #1, and I went to New York on a college visit, and Daughter #2 went to France.
Though I grew up in New Jersey, this was my first trip back to New York City in 24 years and Daughter #2’s adventures in France brought back memories of my own personal, post-New Jersey awakening as a student there nearly 40 years ago. Before she left, I made gougeres and pear clafoutis for a French-inspired party, along with the aforementioned sardine rillettes, courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s, Around My French Table.
There was no time in New York to taste everything I wanted, like giant soup dumplings, Brooklyn hipster Jewish food, or what is reported to be the world’s best rugelach (or at least the best in New York),
or to pay a visit to Rao’s, Hot Bread Kitchen, Prune, or Blue Hill. I’m happy to report that we made it the iconic Katz’s delicatessen (of “I’ll have what she’s having” fame), where we enjoyed egg creams, pickles, blintzes, knishes, and Jeff dove into a fatty pastrami sandwich.
We went to Zabars,
and finally, FINALLY, my husband and daughter got to experience what pizza is supposed to taste like. No offense, Seattle. You do you.
Back home again, inspired by getting out of my box and happy to have overcome one of three signficant hurdles we face, I slowly felt like cooking again. There were rhubarb scones and almendrados for Easter and Passover,
inspiration from some newly acquired cookbooks (three scored at a sale table at a local bookstore and one which came to me for free from winning a contest)
and discovery of two new cooking communities.
As a freelancer, who works from home, often not speaking to another human creature all day, (until my daughters come home and core dump the outrages and triumphs of their days), social media is my portal to the outside world. Some time ago, I joined the Cookbook Junkies Facebook page, where I could cavort with my own kind, and I am a haphazard member of Eat Your Books (which is how I won Turkish Delights). Cookbook Junkies and Food 52 both have established Facebook cookbook groups, in which each month people share their experiences cooking from selected books. Food 52 happened to be cooking from Diana Henry’s Simple, a book I’d recently scored on sale. Usually a solo peruser of cookbooks, I never seem to get around to making even half of the recipes that catch my eye. I found it inspiring to see others’ postings, which stoked my creative juices and got me cooking again. Whatever else happens on Mother’s Day, I will finally get around to making Diana Henry’s Lemon Ricotta cake, which everyone has raved about.
After a promising day of sunshine, it’s another blah rainy day in Seattle, where today’s paper reports we’ve had nearly four feet of rain since October. Up much of the night fetching grass for a dog with indigestion, I missed morning boot camp, which usually fuels my day. It’s almost noon, I’m still in my PJs, I’ve got work to do, exercise to cram in (that ship has sailed), and a messy house and a crotchety computer to contend with. And don’t get me started on health care. I will take solace in the fact that I’ve got Lemon and Apricot Cinnamon Chicken with Orzo from Turkish Delights on the menu tonight and feel grateful that I’ve always got cooking to ground and comfort me. Even if my cooking muse sometimes goes on vacation, it’s nice to know she’ll eventually come back home.
What a great posting. I have also been in a downward spiral of a cooking slump since my boy left for college. (Yes, almost 3 years ago) It gives me a weird pleasure to see you have had a similar reaction to the changes in your home. Maybe this will help rejuvenate me. And don’t wait 24 years to go back to NYC. I hear Bette M is a great Dolly on Broadway…..
Thanks, Rene. And what a fine boy you raised! We’ll be back in NYC in August, again in November, and every chance I get to see my girl.
Happy to read your “Slice of Midlife ” again.
Marion Brown ( many years ago friend of your grandparents on River Ave. in Lakewood)
Also great to hear of someone who has made a great life for herself & family.
Thank you, Marion. Your warm comments always make me feel so good and remind me of my mother and grandparents.