A year ago, today, we were living in Panjim, India. We were cooking and painting hard, swimming in the rule-drenched community pool, walking along the Mandovi and trying to figure out a piece of ourselves. It was interesting to re-read my thoughts on creating food in the post, Why Cook? I re-posted it here.
I cook for so many reasons -- to nourish myself and my husby, yes -- but it is a far more layered activity . . . One must eat at least three times per day (well for me, about 5 or 6 -- I must have a snack pack!) and I've concluded that these dining experiences can be a sensoral ritual, full of flavor, aesthetics and joy -- they may as well be! Cup-o-Noodles, Lean Cuisine, energy bars--they've never been my thing.... that stuff is for those who eat because they have to get the eating done, not for types who are prepping for lunch a moment after setting down the fork from breakfast (I made and ate this and this in a 5 hour period one big cooking session recently.) An interest, hobby, obsession -- whatever your passion is, it just hits you upside the head.
For me, especially being far away from family and US life, I find I cook to connect with my inner self, my stable self, the person inside who is innate and unafraid-- the voice that says, "you're okay, you're cooking. you do this no matter where you are, it's home when you cook." So I've been a bit compulsive here in Panjim with the cooking -- to eat and nourish, but also to feel safe and cozy. And not so foreign.
Putting together the next meal is an outlet, an event, an exploration, something to research, refine and ponder when the lights are off and I'm staring into the ceiling, the fan illuminated by street lamps. I'm sure this cooking and eating will evolve as life changes -- jobs, locality, time-- they all influence the way that I think about food -- and yet they don't. I always seem to find my way to the stove. In times of duress, I bake, lulled by the satisfaction of following clear directions, magic chemical changes in the oven and sweet results. When happy and carefree, a more intuitive, semi-deranged, hands-throwing-ingredients-into-a-pot-without-thinking takes over. It's casual and free-flowing, the genes of my cantalope-wizard-chopping-mother coursing through my veins. Either way, happy or sad, stressed or balanced, homesick or at home, I'll be in the kitchen working it out.
My relationship to cooking is both very different and very the same now. I cook, write and teach about food as a job now -- which is thrilling and exhausting. When I pull a pear pecan cake out of the oven at work or get to meet some food-guru to write about, it very nearly knocks the wind out of me. I feel lucky and challenged, learning new approaches and practical cooking things everyday-- I also feel a pluckish downside, where I crave a balanced, healthy meal for dinner (just like the one I left behind at work!) and I just cannot bare to think about what I want and how to go about making it. As a result, we eat simpler foods now -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing! Some of the tastiest meals of late have been a bowl of pasta, with an assortment of leftovers, made with D in a hap-hazard, silly state of mind.
Our lives have changed in ways I couldn't have imagined while stirring over a pot of curry in that little blue kitchen in Goa. I guess that's how it goes.