Despite one of my more recent posts, I have been hesitant to post. First off, there has been a big change in how we spend our days: we have officially started homeschooling. It is a deeply personal choice, and while it might not be for everyone, it is definitely what is best for our family right now. Needless to say, we have been spending more of our time learning/teaching reading and cursive writing as well as enjoying tons of living books; today it was Seeker of Knowledge, last week it was Over in the Wetlands, this week we will continue to explore monarchs with Hurry and the Monarch and Monarch and Milkweed as we watch for them as the days grow colder and shorter. I digress. This is not a homeschooling blog and I am planning on keeping it separate (leave me a comment below if you can think of a good title for our homeschool!). This space has been for me. A place to write about cooking and gardening and other fun aspects of our organic lifestyle.
As you may have guessed, I truly enjoy cooking. I do not, however always enjoying writing about it, especially recently. Why not? Well, a couple of reasons but the main two are measurements and time. Sounds weird I know. As I have gotten better at cooking, I tend to "wing it" more often/ When it comes out great, I make a note of it, a handful of pineapple/coconut or a pinch of cinnamon, etc. I don't typically write down all my small adjustments. I rely on a handful of sources for baseline recipes and then adjust for our tastes. For example, I made an amazing soup last night. What was it? Well, I started by frying bacon (a few strips), a large onion, some butter and then I added grated parsnips and purple top turnips. Once that was starting to look a little crispy (how long? No idea!), I added a quart of stock, a bay leaf and a handful of garlic cloves. I cooked it down until most of the stock liquid was gone. Then I added another quart of stock, chunks of carrots and large chucks of potatoes (skin on because I really, really didn't feel like peeling). I let that simmer, while browning some butter and making a roux, adding the bubbling stock liquid to make a thick gravy. then I added some milk and added it all back to the soup pot. A spoonful of honey, a handful of grated Parmesan and another spoonful of cream off the top of the raw milk. I let it simmer on very low while the bread finished baking (which I threw an egg into that mix, hoping it would be fluffier) and served with fresh parsley. Did you see all the measurements above? Exactly, none. I just said, oh these two parsnips from our CSA need to be used and this handful of carrots. I started chopping and filling the soup pot until it looked like it was full enough. Then when it turned out great, there was nothing left to take a picture of and no measurements for replicating it. Plus I highly doubt I could make it again exactly as I did last night.
The second reason is time. I used to only write when the recipe was short and simple, it was special i.e. used honey, or it was quick. Last fall, I was chatting with another mum about dinners. She commented that she has no idea how we make so many things from scratch and still manage to serve multiple courses each night. I explained that we try to follow the French style of dinner with first course being a vegetable (like salad or beets), second course being a vegetable and a starch, third course is either a cheese course (which we haven't done since we stopped getting weekly cheese from Cricket Creek's dairy CSA), followed by dessert, which is always fruit and that doesn't happen often because we fill up on the first two courses. After she explained to me that she really just didn't want to spend the day in the kitchen. This is something other mums have told me as well. I can understand that, I don't usually spend a day in the kitchen. I use a bread machine, pressure cooker, a KitchenAid. It isn't like I spend two hours kneading dough every day. Lately, I am spending more and more time in the kitchen. I used to spend a max of 45 minutes prepping and making dinner.
Now, however, I am starting dinner over an hour before I want to serve it. I am intentionally choosing to spend more time in the kitchen because I am enjoying it more and more. You could make the soup I made last night more quickly but it wouldn't taste as good. I am learning. Spending the time to brown the meat and caramelize the onions makes a difference. I enjoy the end result so much more when I spend a full hour or two in the kitchen before meals. Go ahead and cream "BUT WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT?!" Well, at this point in my life, I do. I am enjoying doing lessons in the morning with L1, figuring out lunch, reading with the kids, and then sending the older ones out to play while the little ones nap and I start supper. I like the way my beans taste when I let them soak overnight and then cook them. I don't like planning. So I am learning to figure it out as I go. Earlier in the morning or even three hours before dinner, I am looking around the kitchen and thinking about what I can make with what I have. I am not at the planning too far ahead stage because I like to use whatever is freshest at the moment or whatever is leftover, trying to minimize waste. Is this still considered planning if it is done 24 hours or less before the meal? I don't know. It does take more time and consideration and for me it is worth it. Is it worth it to others? I have no idea and it has been holding me back.
A couple of years ago I picked up a worn copy of Julie and Julia, and I never read it. When I cleaned out my books, I found the book on audio CDs that I had bought around the same time as the paperback. I tried listening to it and just couldn't get into it. I tried the paperback again but never seemed to get to the middle. To be fair and honest, I was also planning our wedding and working full-time so leisure reading wasn't high on the priority list. Then the movie was released and I thought, I have to see it! Needless to say, it was released in 2009 and I just saw it now, in 2016. A short delay I know but I am glad I didn't wait longer. It was so much fun and it made me feel like it was okay to enjoy spending time in the kitchen again, something I haven't felt like in a long time. These past few months, spending time in the kitchen has felt like a dirty secret. (See shouting words above.) Like I wasn't living up to someone else's standards because I couldn't make this amazing dinner in 30 minutes or less. We all have those nights where dinner had to be quick and easy. Hello, even Mark Bittman, author of one of my favorite cookbooks had to come out with a Kitchen Expresscook book in order to compete. This constant movement has made me hesitant to discuss my extra time in the kitchen. All around me, every one is rushing, all the time. Nonstop. Last year I read a lot about minimalism and while I am clearly not a minimalist, I am trying hard to live more intentionally. I don't want to pass business on to my children. I want to pass on slow, deliberate and intentional living. Great food takes time. I can rush hurry it along but the more time I spend in the kitchen, the more I can taste the difference.
As I work harder towards intentional living, I am focusing on what is important. One of the things we are doing regularly now is Poetry Tea Time. It sounds simple: make some tea and read poetry with the kids. I heard about it and remember thinking "when will I squeeze that in?" But then one afternoon when the world seemed to be melting, I told the kids I was putting the kettle on and if they came back in five minutes with clean hands, we would have Poetry Tea Time. Off they ran, thinking something wonderful was in store. I quickly cleared the table and grabbed a handful of poetry books off the book shelves: Baby Einstein, Animal Crackers, Haiku Baby, The Random House Book of Poetry for Children and Poems for the Very Young. Laugh if you would like, but these were the best I could find on short notice. I quit searching as soon as the tea kettle starting whistling, rushing back to the table. The baby - is 17 months still a baby? - had climbed onto the table and was trying to find some trouble to get into. I removed the baby with one arm and unceremoniously dropped the books on the table, turned and poured water into a pretty tea pot. I must admit, as I turned back and saw the kids sitting calmly, I was a little impressed. Not only did we owned quite a few poetry books but the kids seemed to think the idea of tea and poetry was something fantastic. Hooray, I am doing a little bit right! I smiled and told them to each grab a book and pick a poem. They browsed the books as I poured each a cuppa with honey in our mismatched cups with honey. Finally I set the baby into a chair and plopped down. Everyone looked at me expectantly, an open book in each set of hands. "Mine first!" each said in their own way. I took a deep breath and read 6-10 poems. Some were short, some made us laugh and each earned me a smile. In less than 15 minutes, our entire day seemed to be reset. As they quickly finished their tea and slipped away from the table towards the sunshine, no longer whining or demanding, I couldn't help think that it was one of the best ways to spend 15 minutes. Seeing a free moment, I wondered if a few minutes of poetry could reset me as quickly. I picked up my recently acquired but not yet opened copy of Haiku Mama: Because 17 Syllables Is All You Have Time to Read. A couple of haikus later and I also wandered merrily outside into the sunshine. That moment is one I hope to always treasure. It is a moment that reaffirmed the notion that if something is important, we make time for it.
So once or twice a week, we make time for poetry tea time. All of us gather and sip and read and delight. And most days I use more than 30 minutes to make our meals. I don't spend 3 hours over the stove, slaving away. I do however spend a few extra minutes here and an extra ten minutes there. The minutes add up; they matter. So for the last two months I have continued to wonder if my extra kitchen time will make it less important to others. The answer is, I don't know. So now I am asking you for your opinion. Leave me some comments and let me know what you like reading about (gardening, book/product reviews, recipes, the animals, etc.), what kinds of recipes you like (short, quick or my favorites) and what you wish I included.
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