It’s amazing the therapeutic nature of food and cooking.
I had a good day. I got up on time, I still had a clean puppy crate, I got to work on time, I got to ride a very good horse. Then in two hours, everything came crashing down about my ears and I was straining at the end of my rope. I couldn’t decide whether to fight or cry – but it didn’t matter, because I had work to do.
I came in tonight, later than anticipated because of the impromptu trip to AutoZone for full-strength truck coolant, after chores and mounting fury and indignation. I meant to cook myself supper, sauteed chicken breast and creamed spinach, but by the time I got coolant in my radiator and the dogs let out and a conversation had with one of my flatmates, it was too late to eat. Not too late to cook, just too late to eat, especially by the time I got done cooking it all.
‘By God,’ I thought, ‘one thing’s going to go my way, everything else be damned!’ Stubbornly, I poured myself a glass of wine and went to cooking. PW’s recipe for creamed spinach has been haunting me for some time, and I was going to cook it tonight so I’d have leftovers tomorrow – or, at this point, just plain lunch.
Slowly, without my really noticing, everything else fell away. I diced half a yellow onion and minced garlic, the movement of my knife a careful exultation of pent-up frustration. Tears came to my eyes from the sulfurous emittance of wounded bulbs. Smelling the warming olive oil, and hearing the subsequent sizzle of onion and garlic, soothed something black and sulfurous in me. By the time the spinach was cooked down and the cream added, my brain didn’t feel so swollen and angry.
I let the chicken breast sizzle. I was hungry. I wanted a turkey sandwich, but fate had turned against me again. My lovely multigrained bread had molded. I still had half left. My waning disgruntlement reared its ugly head again, until I remembered – whole grain mini-bagels! I topped two halves of a mini-bagel with towering stacks of pepper-crusted turkey breast, spinach and provolone and let it rest under the broiler. (I almost burned them, in touch with the rest of my day.) When I did finally take them out, the spinach had wilted and the provolone had browned and bubbled. It was heavenly. I sat lounged on my bed and watched No Reservations and ate it slowly, savoring every bite and washing it down with wine.
Truth is, I’ll say it again – I’ll never get tired of being amazed with the therapy that cooking (and food, though not exclusively food) and baking can provide. The simple though sometimes involved act of caramelizing onions, the smell of browning garlic in a touch of fine olive oil, or the way cookies puff and deflate throughout their cooking time. It’s a real glory in the midst of way too much complication.