So while I tried to get my head in the game today, I took a few minutes out to make myself a nice breakfast. I brewed some coffee and made some toast and scrambled two perfect eggs. I scattered some fresh basil on top from a basil plant on my windowsill that my friend Louisa brought over last week. And right then, I had what I can only describe as a moment of clarity.
I can still smell the basil on my fingers. It brings me a great sense of joy and fulfilment. I feel anchored by it? I do. I feel grounded. In a good way.
This makes me search back over the last couple of weeks to think of other calm moments and I realize that almost all of them are attached to cooking and eating.
It's Labour Day Monday and we're taking it easy at home. Lenny has a cold and we want to make sure that she gets better before her first day of school on Thursday. I consider making her chicken soup because she's not well and has never had it (how did that happen?) but instead I ask her what she wants and the request comes in for mashed potatoes. Classic comfort food. What to cook with it? There is some stew beef in the freezer so I thaw it and then braise it all afternoon. Onions, carrots and parsnips are soft and flavourful. The beef stock simmers down to almost nothing until I add more stock to create a nice sauce. The whole thing is scented with Garlic and Bay. It's rustic and delicious and the beef is as tender as can be, but hasn't fallen apart. The leftovers make a beautiful lunch the next day. I think I could eat this dish every day. It makes me want to curl up with a good book and listen to The Velvet Underground.
I've been threatening to make hummus for years. I know it's not hard and way more cost effective than buying it pre made but I haven't done it. I finally bust out the food processor and give it a go. I keep it simple: chick peas, garlic, lemon, tahini and olive oil. Too much garlic. Like way too much. And I love garlic. I end up having to add another can of chick peas to balance the flavours. It ends up tasty but there is so much. Not sure how long it will take us to eat it all.
Cauliflower is on sale for $1 a head so we buy several for making soup. Sure, Mark Twain said "Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education", but I like the stuff. I rough chop the crumbly florets and the thick stems and roast them in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper. The next day I simmer the already soft and flavourful cauliflower in a mix of vegetable stock and water (4 cups each) with some onion powder, garlic powder and cajun spices. Later that afternoon I puree the whole mess and it makes for a silky, golden brown coloured soup. We eat it for dinner and freeze the rest for one of those days down the road when we have neither the will or time to prepare dinner. I swear that next time I will make some croutons to float on top with a handful of fresh herbs. That may not happen, but I tell myself it will.
That's the thing about cooking. The promise of old comforts and new horizons are endless. Anything can happen, but even if it fails, there's still the smell of that basil, bringing me back to earth.