I refer to myself as a survivalist cooker – the normal circumstances under which I cook tend to be for survival and not for enjoyment.
However, in Three Oaks, things are different, and during the last several weeks I have concocted curried butternut squash soup, butternut squash with thyme and walnuts, curried chicken and asparagus, chicken and pasta with mint thyme cream sauce, creamed spinach, blueberry muffins, and banana bread. This may not be so astounding for those of you who cook on a regular basis, but for me cooking such things, all from scratch, represents a significant change.
I wonder why I am so inclined to produce fresh flavors here and not in my house in Chicago. Perhaps it is all about distraction, or the lack thereof. Here, I rake leaves, go for runs, listen to music, play with Gorilla Girl and Monkey man, watch the fire, and relax.
The cooking phase may be just that, a phase. In a way, though, our life in Michigan represents another side of us. We are living in an alternate reality here; one that gives us the freedom to experiment with sides of ourselves that we have not explored.
This morning, after my run, I was raking leaves in the glow of an autumn sunshine and my neighbor, Tom, and I chatted over the fence. He is also a Chicagoan who travels here to restore furniture in his converted garage. Tom and I talked about how life here allows us the opportunity to experience open spaces, fresh air and life at a slower pace. Oddly enough, the feeling is addicting, and I look forward to weekends now more than ever.
Alternate selves have long been an interest for me. How we transform ourselves, try on different pieces of our identity, and discard or temporarily relinquish others, seems to me to be what makes life more engaging.
You may wonder how I can possibly ascribe so much significance to a bout of cooking. I don’t, really, but it is pleasurable to shed my city life persona for my Julia Child persona, if only for a while. On Monday, I’ll be back to old habits – boxed mac and cheese, jars of spaghetti sauce, pre-made soups. But in the meantime, I will enjoy (and my family will reap the benefits) drinking my wine while I liberally pour the heavy cream into melted butter for the thyme-mint sauce.
Oh, and one more thing: I bought a food-processor! Julia, here I come….