5:30 p.m. I drift into the kitchen to make dinner. I’m mellow.
I shouldn’t be. It’s been a full day. A good day–at a community event, surrounded by good people, a rare day out with my fella (who I spend lots of time with, but usually just one-on-one). After doing far more talking than I’ve done since either my teaching days or my first trade fair four years ago at the end of which I literally wanted to crawl under a rock and attempt to recuperate both my lost voice and my sapped energy, I reach for my essential oil stash and whip up a quick, soothing blend. I run water for one of my favourite treats: a bath.
Yep, a before-dinner bath. Not usually my style. Baths, in my world, are a decadent pleasure. Not to be confused with showers, quick washes, or catching a fresh. I rarely start cooking before six, even on weekends, and bathing comes long meals have been enjoyed and digestion is done. Today, instead, I step out of the tub to (shock) twilight. The days are finally stretching out, claiming time back from night. The air’s chill softening.
It’s a different experience, cooking calm. I chuckle at the concept of Mis En Place, and joke (mostly to myself) about my own version: Mis En Mess. I wash vegetables around dishes. I quickly colonize clear countertops, claiming them with the wayward flags of measuring cups and vegetable clippings destined for the balcony compost. Pasta curls spring and bounce across the floor. Rice scatters in celebration of the meal. Usually.
Today, I drift, calm, through the steps. I’m not on the phone and there’s no multitasking. Rice has cooked while I was steaming myself in the tub; I quietly gather chickpeas cooked last night in anticipation of the full day today. Quiet, I gather a bay leaf and a rosemary sprig from the balcony garden.
So this is what it’s like to be organized, I think. This is what it’s like to plan ahead. This is what it’s like to focus solely, almost meditatively, on the act of cooking.
I love cooking, any day. Well, most days. I love shucking off an onion’s smooth, papery skin to reveal the layered globe within. I love removing the stiff stems from kale, love slicing through a carrot, stealing a chunk before dinner. I love the herbs, the deep, homey scent of fresh thyme, and love knowing that at home, across the world, Mummy’s brown Jamaica tray is lined with wax paper, and then her own stash of the home-dried herb.
Cooking like this, though, cooking today, cooking calm, cooking mellowed, cooking zen, is different. While I usually cook with a flurry of activity–banging pots and pans, the tap whirring on and off, chatting with my brother, a sister, my mum, or peeking at a cooking show on TV, peppering the food with cuss words as I stir and avoid near-spills and lament tiny burns, today, it is a gentle, deliberate act.
As I beg a sprig from the rosemary, and a leaf from the bay shrub, I feel deeply thankful. For a good day, for this calm. For spring to come, wrapped up in the tight promise of what looks to be a bay bud. For the good aromas being drawn out from this food, for having this food, having this fella, having family, strewn about though we are. As much as I celebrate (accept?) my usual, flurried cooking style, this calm is something else. I could get used to this.