‘Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable’ ~ Mary Oliver
I’ve deadset found a key to a door. A door into some serious kitchen flow. For a while now I’ve wanted to get back to basics. Into some serious low waste, budget conscious, healthy from scratch eating. We eat well but there is room for more from scratch and less waste. And I think the key for me is layering. The type of layering I’m finding by working through a style of cooking.
Now I’d love to cook a range of cuisines but as a cook my skills are not capable of that. And I am lucky in that I have a partner who can do this. But I do want to be less boring. I want to be able to go to the pantry or fridge and have options. Tasty options. Healthy options. I also have a family of six to feed. I don’t want cooking to be a chore but something more. Something where my creativity and passions are happily at play.
I often think about meal planning and then fall at the first hurdle because getting six cookbooks out is overwhelming. It is not and never will be my style. Pleasing six people is overwhelming with modern cookbook recipes. And we’ve moved and changed so much in the past years that I’ve lost my rhythm in the kitchen and where to go for local ingredients (also there’s the language thing and the hormones, that peri-meno thing never helps). But it’s about stepping into the right door though isn’t it. The one that is built and waiting for you. Your personality, your skills, your interests, your tastes, your style, your confines and basically your timing.
Enter my new kitchen challenge – to cook Roman food. Food that is centuries old. A cuisine that’s often described as peasant food. Highly flavoured, peasant food. Alleluia peasant is the opposite of fancy! Perfect for someone who wants to make beautiful food from scratch without the finicky fuss. Without the need for technical knowledge. This sounds like me. It’s my version of fancy! And this is my time. I’m ready, I need it. So I walked in through the front door, the door that beckoned me. The challenge to cook through the bright red Rome cookbook.
Any cuisine has basics. Herbs, spices, ingredients, pastes, dishes that compliment each other. Take the pesto I made last week on my first cooking day. We had it on crackers and bread. The following day I had it with my egg. Today I added it to a focaccia with leftover roast chicken from last night for the boys for lunch. And tonight the last of the leftovers were added to a pasta for the vegetarian and her vegetarian friend. This is a staple. Easy to make and can also be frozen in ice-cubes and bagged for further use! Pesto chocked full with herbs and veg. Pesto that went four ways, in four meals. Pesto flow.
Last night we ate roast chicken and the bones were added to a stock pot with veggies and brewed today to produce stock. Literally a 5 minute prep and then it sat on the stove brewing without any needs for hours. My eldest son often calls me a witch with my herby salves, so it does suit me to be brewing. A jar for risotto later in the week and the rest frozen in 300ml reusable containers for future use. Boom. Massive saving in buying stock, eating unknown ingredients, food waste and packaging. Kitchen flow.
I did not set out to become a better cook when I started writing this month. But as always when I write daily my world expands, I expand. Perhaps it is because I notice more. Perhaps it is because I get to express my real self so this flow continues in other areas of my life. The key to this door is definitely the honing in, the focusing on what’s important. I have tried to be political in the past with the issues I care about but I’ve found it spirit crushing. I am far better working away in my everyday life to create change and expressing myself from this place.
From the beginning of this writing challenge I’ve really focussed only on what I need to be focussed on. And also by ignoring the doubts when they creep in. Actually stopping to recognise the triggers of these creepers, the thoughts, the people and the habits that contribute to them. And then I stare them out. I choose excitement over fear, seeing wildflowers rather than things, intuition over the noisy world, embracing flux over stagnation and good busy over idle thinking. I want to be excited about life! I am excited about life. I want to be surprised by what I am capable of finding in myslef. I want cycles of layering. Layering one thing that matters with another thing that matters. You wouldn’t go out in winter without layers to keep you warm. Why risk wasting life without the ‘good’ layers.