I started cooking (for real — not from boxes and cans) in September. Kevin and I had just moved in together and suddenly it all seemed very clear: We need to eat. It sounds a little stereotypically housewifey. But I didn’t feel like I was on an episode of black-and-white television. I didn’t feel like I should be wearing an apron and popping out babies. I just thought: There’s two of us. If I make something good for dinner, we both get to eat it.
And so the cooking began. I bought ingrediant after ingrediant, things like cornmeal, olive oil, dried cherries, confectioner’s sugar, leeks. These were not things you could eat whole or things that came with mixes. I pored over cookbooks and cooking web sites. I started improvising by imagining how two flavors would taste when mingled. I splashed maple syrup and rice vinegar into soba noodles with garlic powder.
Turns out, I like cooking. And I wish I’d started sooner.
From the blog Smitten Kitchen, here’s a rundown of why people don’t cook.
I don’t have Twitter. Furthermore, I don’t have a handheld advice device with which to Twitter when away from the computer. So here’s a backlog of status updates the old-fashioned way:
-Am standing in REI and completely confused by the bajillions of products that could probably take me to the Himalayas and back. I remember how my ninth grade global studies teacher used to say “Himalayas”.
-Am the proud owner of like $200 worth of lightweight airtight weatherproof elephant-repellant items. Plus a big floppy sun hat.
-Am in the Whole Foods remembering how rich people can afford to buy nicely stacked organic carrots.
-Am feeling a crazy panic rise in my chest over the thought of seven days in the wilderness.
-Am wondering why all the bathing suits at Target are string bikinis. Maybe a girl wants her top to stay on if she hits a wave.
-Am so hot. It’s so hot. Oh lord. This star we came from is melting any thought I have before it hits the pavement of my consciousness and if you could just turn it down a little, even a teensy bit, we could all get along.
-Am feeling the cold caffeine buzz of this Frappucino cycle through the heated coils of my existence. Am thinking too hard about all the floor cleaner that it’s perhaps made of.
-Am staring straight ahead wondering how the Buddhists do it and thinking of Janelle leaving for Taiwan, my sister wanting to study in Dublin, remembering how lost I got in Dublin, how I would love to get lost in Taiwan. Or Dublin. Or the woods.
-Am really hoping I don’t get lost in the woods. Though, you know, I’ll have a big floppy sun hat. Which is pretty cool.
Somehow I ended up becoming friends with the kind of people who sing in old-timey jazz-folk bands, who hand out kitten stickers to strangers, who think turtle races are a good Friday night, who plot to steal at least one turtle and liberate it to somewhere more humane, who bring a ziploc bag of harmonicas (one in each key) to the picnic, who custom-fit their road bikes with stereo speakers, who jeopardize their antibiotic regimens to have a beer with me, who feel like dancing pretty much all the time. Friends. Thanks.
Follow me on this one. Birds evolved from dinosaurs. They’ve been around a while. So the Field Museum tells me. They’ve been around much longer than people. So… they’re probably less dumb and more incredible than humans (except ornithologists) normally give them credit for. For example, they can fly. Also, they don’t have to use some wordy, clunky language to communicate. Also, they follow the magnetic signals of the earth or whatever and can navigate all over the place, whereas humans need their fancy GPS locators. I mean, sure they never developed computers, but they keep it simple — making a nest out of sticks, for example, whereas people try to make their houses out of incredibly time-intensive materials. And we, stupid humans, are making them tweet really loudly over our lame-o attempts to transport our earthbound-selves.
Kevin and I are going camping at the end of July to North Manitou island. It’s off the coast of Michigan, and apparently you can just camp wherever you want as long as you don’t disturb the wild things. My basic requirement for a summer trip was that it needed to be as off the grid as possible. (The grid, for me, meaning e-mail, electricity, whining, gas prices, Starbucks, deadlines, gushing over Sex and the City: The Movie.) It’s an hour and a half by ferry from the mainland, so I’m pretty sure it’s gridless. I’ve never been camping before either, so this is big news for me. Most concerning: I don’t know how to make any camping foods. And I like to eat. So leave me some recipes if you’re backpacking-savvy.
Fireworks at Winnemac Park are my new fave tradition. Smoke and loudness, as much as you can take, as many neighbors as can cram on the sidewalk, as many zoomy whistle-boom sounds as the air can hold. Like the finale at most park displays. Except it goes on for hours. And there was no warm-up.
On the El today we passed a tennis court where some kind of lesson was going horribly wrong. Little kids, three or four year-olds, were arranged in three lines like they were about to march off somewhere, except they were holding tennis rackets half the size of their bodies. They wiggled around or looked up at the sky or down at their shoes while waiting for their turn. Three adults, each in army green shorts, tossed bright yellow tennis balls to the first kid in each line. And these kids’ swings exploded with energy but were just… Just. Such. Misses. Rackets went straight up into the air; fell right out of their hands; smashed the air with vigor. Kids whirled around and sprung off the ground, but nothing connected. The tiny Asian kid in flourescent orange shorts held his racket with two hands badminton-style and had to bend his knees just to lift it off the ground. The bright yellow tennis balls whiffed right past all three kids. They went to the back of the line. Next!
The El moved on, but I couldn’t help think about those kids and how they seemed like a perfect visual representation of something that I’ve been mulling over the past few days. I used to think that, by your late-20s, we’d all be pretty slick at this being-a-grownup thing. And for a minute there, it seemed to be happening: people got jobs that meant something, found real love or acquired condos and graduate degrees. But as together as we seem, we’re still battling something — ourselves, our personality traits, our weaknesses, things we hash out in long three a.m. phone calls about our hangups and bangups. The basic building blocks of a Sensible Life fell into place, so now the second, deeper layer of problems can plague us even more. It’s like we’re all standing there distractedly with these rackets as heavy as cast-iron skillets, taking madly clumsy swings at these problems.
Your temper alienates those around you: SWISH.
Your dependence on others makes you unstable: SWISH.
Your unwillingness to accept blame makes others resent you: SWISH.
Your inability to commit prevents you from emotionally investing in anything: SWISH.
Your fear of failure keeps you safely in mediocrity: SWISH.
We’re trying so hard and waiting so desperately for the time that ball connects and sails over the net, hoping for one good THWACK.