I feel like I’m cooking all the time

It’s been a year with a lot of small but important changes. Sometimes the most impressive changes are the ones that are easiest to see – new house, loss of job, new pet, kid – but those sort of take care of themselves. They don’t happen all the time. For me, I find that I sort of coast through the big changes and it’s the apparent doldrums in between that get a little tricky. I could ramble about how my kid’s in preschool or recap the car accident I had in the summer, but my kid was in daycare before, and I didn’t get hurt in the accident and ended up with a very similar car afterwards. They make up events on the timeline of the linear version of my life, but they don’t make up real change.

Quitting music feels big, but in reality the number of people who are even aware of it wouldn’t fill  into an average Starbucks. (The number of people who actually care or are affected by it would be the number of people in that Starbucks drinking an herbal tea.) And it’s still not a change, in a way; I’ve made something “official,” but if I’m honest about it, I’ve been pulling away for years. The difference is sitting at home and feeling guilty about it or sitting at home and being comfortable with it. Not that I sit around or remain at home during my free time, but whatever.

This marks a rough first year of me regularly practicing meditation. That’s a change, and it’s been nothing but good. The only bad thing about it is that it’s easy to let it drop. Fortunately, it’s easy to pick back up again. It’s not gigantic “soul has been saved” good, it’s more along the lines of “I regularly drink 8 glasses of water during the day” good. Nothing revolutionary, but it feels like the right thing to do and it has a small but cumulative effect. It’s like taking a Vitamin C tablet after eating a Happy Meal and somehow thinking it balances out your deeds, this is the same deal; cutting back on Happy meals, and/or taking that Vitamin C tablet more often is more important than a single day’s activity. Heck, I haven’t even dreaded the holidays very much this year; something’s changing.

Anyway, I won’t list and explain every asinine little change. But I’ve started cooking a lot again. I feel like music took the space of “doing something I should enjoy” without actually providing much enjoyment. So I’d used the time and energy I’d save up for “enjoying things,” and there’s no way to get that back, it creates a weird enjoyment deficit by creating less spare time and filling that reduced spare time with lower quality activities. By stepping away from music, suddenly other things I actually do enjoy have been getting a little attention again. I won’t list all those, either. But I’ve found myself cooking a whole bunch, and the change isn’t that I’m cooking a lot, or cooking again, but rather that I’m fitting things I enjoy into my schedule, intentionally and actively, and not at the expense of any of my real responsibilities.

I feel like music always came at a cost; my weekend, my evenings, my family time outside work, my sleepless nights worrying about specific situations I was dreading, and my sleepless nights worrying about the big picture. I feel like cooking comes at the expense of dirty dishes, and not only will I pay that small price willingly, I usually get some help. One thing I’d always do after a busy period of music is cook a bunch. I never really noticed, but cooking ended up being one of the things I’d really do to unwind after I’d done things I thought I was doing to unwind. Funny.

Since last weekend, I’ve made clam chowder, bagels, slow cooked spare ribs with homemade barbecue sauce, sweet and sour chicken (twice, The Girl(TM) loved it and asked for it, and if she’ll eat it, hey…), fudge, shortbread, flatbread, felafel from scratch, gingersnaps, lentil soup in the slow cooker, and I can’t remember what else. Oh, there was ice cream, too, but that didn’t work out perfectly; I tried to use this “ice cream maker” that Anette has, but I used a recipe off the internet instead of out of the “ice cream maker” instruction manual. I either need to stick to “ice cream maker” recipes, or I didn’t let the main part of it freeze long enough. Live and learn. But I’ve cooked a lot of stuff, just sayin’.

(I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t move toward some kind of food employment, but I think it’s a false path. I really enjoy cooking and learning about food and getting better at it, but there’s a pretty big difference between making cookies with your daughter on a lazy Sunday and getting up at 5:00am for minimum wage to stand in front of a vat doing the same thing. But that’s an oversimplification. My biggest and oldest client is a culinary school, and their 2 main programs focus on regular culinary arts and pastry arts. You’d figure that’d result in a lot of pastry chefs and regular chefs, and you’d be right. But it also sends people in all sorts of crazy directions. In addition to the expected, there are the professional food stylists, the flavor consultants for food manufacturers, the people who go onto Food Network either behind or in front of the camera, the entrepreneurs who start their own little things, food writers for blogs and websites and newspapers, sommeliers, restaurateurs, cruise ship and resort chefs, private nutritionists, I can’t even list them all. So to tell myself I shouldn’t learn more about food because I don’t want to flip burgers is a pretty gross  – and common – for me) oversimplification.)

So anyway, I’m thinking of starting some kind of food blog. Nothing fancy, and it’s not like there aren’t a billion already, but it’ll be a good excuse to write and it’s something I care about. It’s not that I think I have secret powers or extraordinary skill – if anything, that’s what I love about it a lot of the time; find a decent recipe, follow the recipe reasonably well, and most people are on a pretty level playing field. I do feel a little pride when I unearth a good recipe or accidentally learn about some food trend I can try out, but even that’s just a matter of luck and spending a little time, nothing special about that. I’ve gotten a lot more into cooking since I had a kid and have become more aware of issues of nutrition, food supply in general, sustainability, all that stuff, and even if I’m going to cook total crap, I love knowing what goes into it as far back the chain as I can go. I’m probably not going to make my own ketchup regularly, there’s only so much time, but as I’ve mentioned before, I really feel like I’m doing something for my family when I feed them. Literally feed them, not earn some money or even just go shopping, I mean warm food on a plate. I love that my daughter Sydney wants to help so much of the time, and I seek out stuff that she’ll either eat or can help with (or occasionally both).

If I can come up with something, maybe I’ll change the world with some new and fresh idea. If I don’t come up with any paradigm-shattering content models, I’m going to start anyway. It’s not the only writing I intend to do this year, but it’s a foothold. And it should be fun.