A few things that are inspiring my time in the kitchen these days:
My larder and refrigerator are pretty bare this week, due to the lack of time and opportunity to get to the market. I've been reaching way back into the cupboard, into jarred tomato sauce and canned chickpea territory. Several almost empty bags of variously shaped pastas are thrown together for a quick supper and ancient, sticky packages of dried beans are left soaking longer than usual in vain attempts to revitalize them into something edible.
Rather than being a problem, I'm finding this so-called paucity to be very inspiring. Not only does it push me to be more creative, it reminds me that sometimes restrictions can be, paradoxically, very liberating. They help to focus and keep it simple, and force me to discover what's beyond my habits. Not to mention that a can each of chickpeas, chopped tomatoes and coconut milk, along with a few spices and seasonings, makes a mighty nice curry.
2) Apples. I'm putting them in everything: chicken salad, pancakes, sauteed chicken livers (in butter with onions and brandy), and pork roast, of course. There seem to be more varieties than ever at the farmers' market these days. I'm especially appreciating the tiny Ashmead's Kernal with its russeted exterior and crisp, snappy texture.
3) Pastured Chickens. I belong to a chicken-and-egg CSA. We've just been told that our farmer needs to stop producing meat chickens this winter as she is struggling with this part of her operation. I love these pasture-raised chickens that come to me with their heads and feet still on. I love them for their heartier, more developed flavor and texture. I love them because having to cut off their feet and heads has taught me something about my relationship to eating meat. (I'm not as indifferent as I thought I was.) I also love them for the delicious stock those heads and feet make, extra rich and gelatinous. I will miss them.
4) Poetry. Specifically the poem Persimmons, by Li-Young Lee
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.
5) Writing this post every week. Joan Didion said "I write entirely to discover what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear." This is my 134th Weekend Meditation. I usually sit down on Saturday afternoon with no idea what I'm going to write about and somehow, before dawn on Sunday, there's always a post up in the queue. In some ways, I have no idea how it got there.
It's a great pleasure and honor and privilege to spend a sliver of my life sitting around thinking about what inspires me, or encourages me or makes me laugh. Having the form and the deadline (more limitations!) of this post keeps me upright and on track. And knowing that someone might actually read this and even comment on what they've read keeps me from getting too lazy or indifferent. The old saying is true: There's nowhere to hide. So the final inspiration, dear reader, actually belongs to you. Thank you.
(Images: Dana Velden)