Tag Archives: musings

Thoughts while washing dishes (or why I cook)

There is a certain quiet in the kitchen when everyone has eaten and left.

Sleep starts to tease your eyelids as your hands work methodically to soap and rinse the sprawl of pots, plates, utensils … getting slower as you start yearning for bed, then quicker as you look at the time and remember that your alarm clock will ring in 6 hours.

It is work, you work harder than you have all day at your day job. You hop off the train, kiss your husband, run to the store, come home, march into the kitchen, don an apron, get moving. When guests expecting dinner are due in 45 minutes, there is no pointless dawdling or twiddling of thumbs, no pointless scrolling, no staring at the clock willing 5pm to come sooner. It’s work shift #2 after a full shift #1, but it’s rewarding work – chopping, measuring, sniffing, stirring … eating … talking … checking that guests’ glasses are full and bellies filling. You whip cream and make tea. You co-host. You listen, talk, laugh, catch up. And then, just as quickly as it began, it’s over. They go home. Time to wash up and then to go to bed.

But THIS moment, washing dishes, marvelling at how cooking smells and laughter give way to crumbs on the table and oil splashes on the stovetop. THIS silence is golden. You understand that time is your own to do what you want with it. You understand why people are the most important thing in the world. You understand that all the work that goes into cooking and feeding makes sense and is worthwhile, even though food takes effort to cook and less effort to eat and once done it is a cycle to be repeated in the days to come.

Finally – when people have left and the plates are clean again, you can feel the difference it has made. You have given, but received so much more in return. You are satisfied with food and the fullness that comes from eating together with others. And you are filled with gratitude.

That’s why I do it. To feel good, to have fun – but equally, to enjoy the satisfaction of working hard with my hands and feeling rested, well and grateful.

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Mettez-vous en vacances!

Go where your best prayers take you.
~ Frederick Buechner

My mirror monologue moment this morning took me by surprise. I was calmly brushing my teeth and contemplating cooking eggs for breakfast when an unexpected voice spoke (cheekily, I might add): “How about fried brains for breakfast?”.

I paused.

I was alone in the bathroom, as far as I could tell. Did I really hear what I thought I did? It had certainly been loud. Who had spoken? I thought fleetingly of this [see 3:08]. Cheeky, indeed.

I know this post sounds a little kooky…

“You are soooo weird,” you may be thinking. Frankly, I wanted to say that to myself this morning too. Except that I didn’t really want THREE monologues running in my head at the same time, that is WAY too many internal personalities to handle at 7 in the morning.

So I didn’t say anything. I just considered the comment… and I knew that kooky-self-talk or not, whoever had spoken was right.

Fried brains never did make the world a better place, and since I have them now, that has to change.

It’s funny how the world tries to grab our attention and tell us something sometimes, through books/films/people and all, and how we then try so hard to ignore it all and try to keep on keeping on… [with what? Who? Why?]… like a hamster on roller skates. Pointless recipe for disaster.

“Look after yourself”, people kept saying. “Mettez-vous en vacances!” [put yourself on vacation!] – a line from Patricia Wells’s book seemed to yell at me last night. Paul randomly sent me this excellent link. I received this in my inbox yesterday. Probably the worst (or best) of the lot was this evil virus infection which bowled me over and knocked me out for a good few days.

So I’m not going to fight it anymore.

I’m going to sleep like a normal human being. I’ll get up early and fill the morning air with the likes of this (somehow I feel relaxed listening to her sing), and I’m going to live, and not worry. I’m going to be an explorer again, not another human in Auckland queuing for bad coffee or complaining about the summer we never had (“get over it”, I want to tell some people). I’m going to put love before deadlines and lists. I’ll stop for a sunset. I’ll be spontaneous again.

I’ll put myself on vacation.

And while I’m attempting to write a FOOD BLOG, here’s what I had for dinner last night:

Meticulous and orderly it was not, but delicious – oh yes it was. This was me forgoing a trip to the supermarket, in favour of throwing opening the fridge and pantry and cooking with no rules except a vague aim of having fun in the kitchen. And it was good. Big fire, too much garlic, chopped tomato, dash of chilli flakes, splash of red wine, handful of chopped cashew nuts, squeeze of lemon juice, fresh baby spinach leaves… poured onto a bed of angel hair and crowned with a poached egg.

Till next time. Remember. Sometimes, you just have to mettez-vous en vacances!

On Julie, Julia and Hunger

Life itself is the proper binge.
~ Julia Child

Tonight, I watched “Julie and Julia” for the second time. I can still feel a laugh simmering in my belly, and my face is still wet with tears.

I feel like I have finally enjoyed their stories on an empty stomach.

You see, in my two previous encounters with “Julie and Julia”, I was distracted. The exact dates on which I chanced upon Julie Powell’s book “Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously” (some time before the movie was released) and on which I attended a late night screening of “Julie and Julia” at a cinema in Singapore are lost amongst the loose leaves of my memory now, but I have not forgotten the state I was in when this story made its way to me. Both times, my heart was a dark shade of grey. Both times, “Julie and Julia” was a nice meal, but it was like trying to eat at a loved one’s funeral – I couldn’t really dig in.

This time though, the film shone/showered on my crimson heart, and I loved every ray/drop of it.

By the way, did you know that “Julie and Julia” (the book) is also one of the things that inspired the birth of this blog (well, that and a night of insomnia)? And while I have no Paul Child or saintly Eric now, I had – and have – a wonderful troop of family and friends who help keep it going.

Happy I am.

And while I’m on the subject of happiness, I’m happy to be on holiday leave, too. You get more time to think and make breakfast and go for long sea-smelling walks when you’re on holiday.

One of the holiday thoughts that surfaced in my mind the other day while at the beach was this: that to be hungry… really hungry… can be a marvellous thing.

In suffering hunger, senses are sharp, everything is real. Alive. To sounds, smells, sights, tastes. Facial expressions. Thoughts. Feelings. These are some of the things that I like about hunger in food, and in life – that keenness, clarity and drive to go after something that will fill and satisfy. The spontaneity to try something new. The vulnerability. The awareness that we need other people. The desperation. The jolting reminder that “I am a human being”.

That day, I found myself hungry in a curious way. Hungry enough to defer eating because no food immediately appealed, I found myself wanting to wait till I knew exactly what I wanted to eat (thus I ate breakfast at 12, no lunch, and dinner past 8pm). I found myself thinking new things about hunger and the function of eating. I was hungry for the smell of the sea, hungry for a sunset, hungry to dream. And I was content to be hungry, and gleeful when I finally ate and felt like I was really eating… satisfying the essence of my hunger, rather than eating just ‘cos it was time to eat (or time to blog). ;-)

I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but I think my thoughts have been coming together slowly… the truth is: I’ve gotten used to the feeling of fullness, of reaching out regularly to grab a cookie even when I’m not hungry (a phenomenon frequently observed in the lives of people with desk jobs), of eating more than my body requires at birthdays/other occasions, of eating when bored or moping, of eating when I’m not hungry just so I can experience a food more fully (and write about it). And when I’m not eating, I’m nibbling on food-related prose/events/stuff the way a kid feasts on candy – very greedily.

Food fascinates me. Probably always will.

But I begin to see that too often, I miss one real and obvious aspect of food/eating – hunger. Perhaps knowing hunger is crucial to knowing food. And perhaps… loving hunger (within reason) is crucial to truly loving food.

I don’t really know hunger well at all, and while I know I’m so fortunate to even be able to say that, I think that I want to fall deeper in love with food by coming to love hunger too.

Now, before you start worrying about me developing anorexia, it’s not gonna happen. The way I plan to go about this whole “knowing hunger” thing is simple. No diets. No starvation.

Just a few simple mental guidelines addressed to myself – 1. Eat when truly hungry. 2. Pay attention to food. 3. Be not afraid of hunger. 4. Laugh and love and cook like Julia Child. 5. Fall deeper in love with life, God and people.

And that, you may be relieved to read, concludes my Sunday ramble. :-) Thanks for listening (in particular – a huge thank you to you darling readers including Celi, Greg and Kristy for always making me smile with your comments)! Adiós for now!