Something you do just for the doin' of it.
Forget the 'no-knead in five minutes' and chicken stock from a can. No shortcuts or packets of instant powders. We're talking completely from scratch here. I would even go so far as to say making your own ricotta for the gnocchi or baking a special loaf of bread for the bread crumbs. OK. Maybe the bread is taking it too far but you get the point.
Now I know people are over-scheduled these days and there's hardly time to open a box of Kraft Mac'n'Cheese and I say well, actually, that's my point. Every now and then, find the time. Make the room. Send the kids and the spouse and the homework and everything else away for the day. And start dreaming big.
Think cassoulet or a classic New Orleans recipe that starts with a 45-minute roux. Think the last half of Boulettes Larder, after all the ingredients arrived from Paris. Or a complete meal from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Pull out that recipe that for some odd reason you've been saving for years, even though you know you'll never have the time to make it. Now you do.
I actually do this. Every now and then I lock myself in my kitchen with a really BIG project and emerge several hours later exhausted but a little saner. I think it's important to give myself over completely to something every now and then. To just step back and let whatever it is take over and be the most important thing.
Usually at some point, everything drops away and it's just me and my knives and the 10,000 things that need to happen in the next few hours. The only thing I have to do is the next thing. That's it. Bliss. And the great thing about cooking is that in the end I have this something, this meal or amazing dish, that usually needs sharing.
I'm thinking a cassoulet is on my horizon soon. I'll try to give you plenty of notice, so you can be sure to be good and hungry on that day.
(Image: Dana Velden)