THAT'S IT // elspeth

I didn't really cook this week. Don't get me wrong. I ate! But Sally and Alex were in Maine and Nora drinks milk for a living and so I just...didn't. One night I went up to the restaurant in Provincetown. Another night I went to the movies with Emily and Nicole and we had popcorn and beer for dinner. Saturday our friends Ed and Teresa very kindly had me over. It was so nice. I took a break.

It is good to do this every once in a while, I think. Especially as a parent. I never really understood until Sally started demanding regular meals what the whole cooking-as-drudgery thing was about, but now I get it. I still mostly disagree, but there's a part of me that empathizes. I happen to like cooking, often even to love it, so even when it feels repetitive and mundane I can see past that to a future point of creativity. But if your creativity comes in the form of painting or flower gardening or woodworking, then yeah! the women's movement has been good to you. For goodness sake, express yourself some other way.

But at the same time, I think it's good if we can find a way to love cooking. As a culture, I mean. Because a lot of the drudgery we've given up, in the kitchen and elsewhere, actually has a lot of meaning. To take cooking as an example—but I think you could easily sub in sweeping or splitting wood or blacksmithing or whatever physical task we've given up because it's easier to outsource it or do it with the help of some sort of technology—feeding ourselves is actually pretty important. There are huge health implications to always outsourcing this task, whether it's to a restaurant or a package.

We've been reading Farmer Boy to Sally recently, about the boyhood of Laura Ingalls Wilder's husband Almanzo, and literally his entire life revolves around feeding the family. There's a part where Almanzo and his father are threshing wheat by hand, and Almanzo asks his dad why he doesn't want to rent the new threshing machine. "All it saves is time, son," he says. "And what good is time, with nothing to do?" I read that passage twice, and then I went over it again.

The point, I guess, is that I feel lucky. Lucky to choose, most of the time, meaningful work, even if it sometimes feels like drudgery. And also lucky to live in a time and place where I can take a break. I ordered some of these Nikki McClure prints during my down time to put up around the house, because I think they capture the essence of a life built by hand so beautifully. They're from her new book, Collect Raindrops.

Anyway, if cooking's not your thing, or if it scares you, or if it makes you feel inadequate or guilty somehow, I highly recommend reading Jenny Rosenstrach's book. It's called Dinner: A Love Story, and while it's ostensibly a cookbook, I've been reading it sort of like a novel. And I doubt I'm the only one, because in addition to recipes, it's also a very honest look at how one family gets dinner on the table and manages to (most of the time) eat it together. And it's full of strategies for how you, whoever you are or whatever level you're cooking at, can do this too.

Of course, it's just as good a read even if you're already pretty into dinner. I've got the black bean burritos bookmarked, and the fish cakes. The break's been nice. But there's one of Drew's chickens thawing in the sink, and I'm looking forward to getting back into the kitchen.


Laurie said...

Thanks for the book suggestion! I just added it to my list at the local library.

Elspeth said...

Yay! Such a good read. I stayed up way to late one night getting into it!

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