A mere corner of the chaos!
I trashed my kitchen the other day. Not in the rock-star-in-a-hotel-room kind of a way (there was no broken furniture) but I did make quite an enormous mess! I had once again screwed up on time management and found myself with three cooking projects that needed to be completed in one afternoon. Before I knew it, I had dirtied every pot and utensil and covered every surface with a riot of cooking scraps and half empty bottles. My stove looked like one of those scenes from Dexter where I have to cover my eyes but peek through my fingers. It was pretty wild. At one point, I took a step back and observed the chaos and couldn't help but smile, maybe even cackle a little. I had created one glorious, explosion of a mess and man, did it feel good!
I know we're supposed to be neat and organized in our cooking and in our kitchens. All the experts say we should put out a bowl to catch our compost scraps and do our dishes immediately upon dirtying them and keep a sponge on hand to wipe up as we go. Even beginner cooks know what a mise en place is and how to carefully prep and organize everything before taking on a recipe. I suppose those cooking shows don't help, when all the dishes and scraps get magically whisked away and every pot and pan looks brand new.
But cooking is fundamentally chaotic because cooking is about transformation and transformation almost always creates a mess. First we must disassemble before we can reassemble, so even if you've planned and prepped to the nth degree, there will always be a moment when one thing tips into the other and the world slips out of your control. This transformational act of turning a bunch of ingredients into food (delicious food, nourishing food) is actually where the thrill of cooking is located for me and I long ago learned to be comfortable, or at least accepting, that once in a while things were going to get a little messy. Or, to be honest, very, very messy.
There's the thrill of this, and there's also the freedom of it, too. Trying to keep a tight, tidy, neatnik lid on things can be constricting and while limits have their place, they also have their cold, shadowy confinement. We all need to break out, even if it's just every now and then. Don't stop yourself from cooking just because you're afraid of the mess it would make. Don't deprived yourself from something sublime and delicious and nourishing just because you may have to do a little mopping up afterwards.
Just as I learned to appreciate the messing up part, I also learned to appreciate the consequential tidying up phase of cooking. A hard but noble fact of life is that when you cook, you also have to clean. Dishes get washed and the floors get mopped and all the utensils and pots and bowls are returned to their proper place. Yes, I know it all seems like a lot of work, but as any good artist knows, creation is not for sissies.
So go on and let things get a little wild in your kitchen. Do something big and complex, something so out of your control that you can't quite keep it all contained. Roll up your sleeves, throw yourself completely into the moment and let it get messy. What's the worst that can happen?
(Image: Dana Velden)