I have a new morning routine. After peeling myself up from my bed, I make a cup of hot, strong, milky tea and then I turn right around to head straight back into bed. This is not purely a decadent move on my part (although there is naturally some of that involved given that it's me we're talking about here); rather, my return to bed is mostly because my sofa didn't fit through the door of my new apartment and so I'm stuck with the bed until I figure something out. Still fuzzy and barely awake, I sit up amongst the pillows and take small, quick sips of tea. The taste of this tea, these first sips of the day, are perhaps one of my most favorite tastes in the world. I settle in, sip-sip-sip, and then I start listening for the chickens.
If you would have stopped by my home on Friday morning at about 10:30 am, you would have found me still in my robe, standing over a pot of hot, bubbling plums with a tiny spoon in my hand and a crooked half-smile on my face. The reasons for this, for all of this, comes down to two things: ripeness and painkillers. Or the unfortunate, yet fortunate, timing of both. Let me explain.
I'll be honest: It's a rare thing for me to lose my appetite. I'm one of those people who eats rather than abstains in stressful or emotional situations. Nervously, I can nibble my way though a bowlful of almonds (or, to be more honest, a bag of tortilla chips) with hardly a tummy rumble. So when I lost a filling earlier this week and started taking some pain killers while waiting for my dentist to return from vacation, I was a little surprised to find that my appetite had disappeared. And so did a lot of other things along with it.
It's rather astonishing how easily our ordered lives can slip into chaos. It just takes one simple thing, like the loss of electricity or moving house, and suddenly it's impossible to find a pot to cook in, even as you are staring at ten different spoons. This, I've decided, is a really good thing.
I recently tried an experiment where I signed up to receive a bottle of perfume that I knew nothing about except that the person choosing it (a respected expert) thought that it smelled 'like a state of grace.' There would be no labels, no name, no marketing. Just the pure experience of the scent.
When it arrived I gave it a sniff and thought it was OK. Not terrible but not something I would normally choose on my own. Still, I wore it for a month just to see what would happen. And with time my feelings about it changed. Ambivalence grew into curiosity and curiosity grew into appreciation. I gave it time, and it rewarded me with something new and wonderful. Something (and this is the important part) I never would have found on my own, using my own limited preferences.
I am moving again this week and about to inhabit and hopefully settle into my fourth kitchen in twelve months. So, you know ... chaos and disruption, excitement and anxiety, cardboard boxes and dust bunnies. These weekend meditations tend to be about my immediate experience, and there's probably a rose of wisdom I can pull from all this rubble, but frankly I'm just not up to it this time around. (Plus you can revisit all my otherposts about moving over this past year.) But maybe one lesson that has really come to life this time around (OK, here I go again!) is not to rush through the goodbye stage.
I live near a foggy bay where it's fairly cool most of the time. This has made me into a bit of a lightweight because on the rare occasion when the temperatures rise above 87 degrees, I become impossibly helpless. My mind goes soft and unfocused, and my only kitchen activity involves standing in front of the open refrigerator "looking for something to eat." And then closing the door when I begin to feel guilty for wasting energy. This has been happening for the past few days and I'm getting rather restless about it. I used to be made of sterner stuff, I tell you!
This morning I was watching a video of a woman throwing a clay pot on a potter's wheel. I was so impressed with how effortless she made it seem. How did she know when to squish the clay down and then slowly draw it back up again? How did she know when more water was needed, or how much pressure to apply with one hand but perhaps not the other? How did she know when she was done?
There are many things that can influence our cooking: ability, knowledge, budget, hunger and appetite, upbringing, politics, location or region, time and energy, psychological state, family — both present and past, weather, occasions and holidays, religion, mood, availability of ingredients, the kind of kitchen and cooking implements and appliances we have, the season, health, allergies and sensitivities, time of day, traditions, imagination or lack thereof, desire to gain or lose weight, our desires in general, boredom or excitement, our interest in and relationship to cooking in general, quality of ingredients, personal expression. OK. I could go on, but I'll stop there.