I seriously love food.
It’s a passion I inherit from my parents, which is a little unexpected because they both come from solid midwestern families where food was appreciated and enjoyed, but was not such a passionate affair as it is in my family.
My sister and her family feast on Sundays, a Sabbath celebration. They plan the menus with care and attention. Wines and beers match the menu; desserts tend towards the exorbitant. I’ve not yet had the joy of participating in one of these extravaganzas, but I intend to do so before much longer. I adore this tradition; it’s the kind of divine intoxication that is missing from so much of Protestant religious life. Although my theology diverges from my sister’s at key junctures, we certainly share a dedication to cultivating Divine pleasure.
Last week I made a delicious lunch, pictured above: the gorgeous green is steamed kale, and the orange stuff is sweet potato, tempeh, raisins, and almonds lightly sauteed in olive oil and garlic, seasoned with cinnamon, cardamom, and sea salt. The juxtaposition of salty and spicy and sweet in the sweet potato dish was delicious and most satisfying. It took a few minutes longer to make this dish than heating up a microwave lunch, but the rewards were incalculably greater.
Of course, whipping up a homemade meal is a luxury afforded to those of us who work at home, but eating well is a decision you make, not a convenience. After the invention of Tupperware, there’s no valid excuse for not carrying a delicious and nourishing meal to the office.
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Last year I bartered a pair of sunglasses for a Martha Stewart cookbook from my other sister. She still wears the sunglasses and I still use the cookbook. Recently I made a recipe from that cookbook: red cabbage with Granny Smith apples (pictured in its partially cooked glory at right). Thinly sliced onions sauteed in butter, followed by red cabbage, followed by sliced apples and some salt and pepper. Simple, elegant, delectable.
Food preparation is a sensual, sensuous experience for me. The colors and smells and textures, the absolute physicality of it. It takes me out of my head and into my body. Food is all about relationship: the relationship of each flavor to the other, the relationship of me to the people I’m feeding. I love to feed those I love. Cooking is art, and magic: more goes into a loaf of bread than flour, yeast, water. Cooking is a vehicle for emotion. When a meal is made with love, your mind analyzes the flavors but your body knows there’s more to it.
When I go to France (someday, yes, I am going to live in France for at least three months, just you wait and see) one of the things I want to do is learn authentic French cooking. I daydream about it sometimes: standing in my little European kitchen, surrounded by fresh ingredients and Mediterranean light, fretting joyfully over a sauce and wishing I spoke better French and sipping a glass of local wine until success with the recipe becomes irrelevant, and I relax into the simple, raw lust for delicious food.
Be intent on action, not on the fruits of action.