I took apart a can of whole peeled tomatoes in its juices today. I say “took apart” but really I took a can opener to it and poured the contents into a bowl. A few minutes earlier, that same bowl housed biscuit dough, a dough that would turn into the biscuits and gravy I promised Matt this weekend. “Biscuits” are different here. They are dunkable in tea (what isn’t?!) but they aren’t equal to cookies. I’ve partly made my peace with this language. Before that dough, yesterday, I made pizza dough in that same bowl. With Wednesday and Thursday off work, I had a few plans to use up pantry items before my upcoming trip in December. There was nothing in particular but what I did know is that I would start a few ingredients to allow us to cook more easily through the week. The tomatoes became a sauce. I chopped a few cloves of garlic and sprinkled in some dried herbs and let it reduce on the stove while I watched the biscuits brown in the oven. Instant inspiration. This is how I cook now. It wasn’t always like this.
A few years ago, I didn’t even know my way around a grocery store here. Now I work at one and see people who’ve done this for longer than me still share this problem. America has a lot of stuff to sell. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with options. What I forgot too was how easy it was to get overwhelmed with “trends”. I never considered myself as a food blogger in a world outside of this space where my desk sits. I was always a writer first. Unknowingly though, I took that food blog world with me into the kitchen. I cooked to refine recipes that I would post here. If it didn’t look good, I wouldn’t bother making it again. Taste was always an important factor but looks seemed to cancel that out. Sitting here in front of my computer, I pored over recipes I wanted to try, never mind that I had little to no connection with what I was reading. (PS: Another thing American food media fails at is diversity.) I would make a connection! I would try to find a way. If not, at least I would compose pretty pictures?
My elder sister – the actual photographer – said something to me on WhatsApp some months ago that stuck me me. I was in the middle of a “why do I even bother with this blog” gripe when she made me realise that I don’t write anymore. My immediate response in my mind was “what do you mean?” I feel like that’s all I’ve been doing lately. I looked back and saw my posts. They’re here and there. The pressure I put on myself to be close to perfect in the kitchen was holding me back from coming here and doing the one thing I most wanted to do when I started this space. The times where I did have blog posts for you were when I managed to slay those demons and give you the food I ate and enjoyed minus all the frills. It’s all here and I’m proud of all of it.
Lately though, I’ve been wanting to keep more and more of my kitchen to myself. It’s weird. I never thought I would feel like this but yet, here we are. I figure that if there is so much inspiration for every table set around the world and more, what could I possible add to make any difference to your day? There are few recipes you won’t find with a single tap, tap, tap on your smartphone. In fact, there’s a person out there right now typing or home smart device-ing “What should I eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner today?” They will find the best designed or most popular sites to answer their questions. It won’t be me. And that’s alright. Primal needs ought to be satisfied however you see fit.
For me, it will not be completely through the Internet. When I step into the kitchen with no plan, I can feel my brain make connections based on past experiences. I think about a can of tomatoes and I know exactly how I want them to spread along the middle of my pizza tomorrow. We’ve been making bread every Friday this past year, spare a month where we took a little break (Papa Murphy’s filled that void…not as well but still a great takeout pizza!). I trussed and roasted a chicken, completely from memory on Wednesday – something I would never have been able to do if I didn’t practice multiple times out of need, after the initial Internet hand-holding. More than showing the world my prowess, my cooking is my manifesto. It’s my way of showing you that I’ve survived another week (this was especially true when I first moved to America and was battling depression…the effects of which manifest in somewhat disruptive ways). My cooking is the story of my family and the trickery the performed to have us fed, clothed, and happy. It’s the way I cut onions and stock tins of spices. It’s my love in action.
It’s simple. There’s so much more confidence in the way I cook now and still there’s so much to learn. Cooking a meal from start to finish gives me a sense of accomplishment that few things can. I crave that outcome. No massive meal prep for me. I want the challenge to make something different every time. Aren’t even the best recipes tinker-worthy?
I’m sorry I haven’t been blogging as much as I should lately. I guess I’m enjoying the freedom of not writing down measurements more than I should. Taste as you go, why don’t you? I’m learning myself for a little bit.
I am still committed to giving away a copy of Feed the Resistance by Julia Turshen. If you’d like to win a copy, share with me a way you self-care so you can care for others in the comments. Also share a link to this book with all your friends in the US where this book is the most relevant. It’s a great gift that gives right back to the ACLU! If you’re in India, you’re free to participate too because I will bring the book to you soon. 🙂