Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Joy of Cooking

I think I've made it clear that food is one of my favorite things. Arugula, pork products, a good sandwich, Bugles, Girl Scout cookies? I love them all...But it's not just the food itself I am drawn to, it is also the experience, and I've talked a little about that here, too. The plate and the plating, the smells and color and textures can make an experience, even if I'm alone. Add scenery or put me at an outdoor cafe--on Newbury Street in Boston, overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla, in a piazza in Florence, a garden restaurant in Rome (see photo), and the food tastes different. Add good company to the mix, and an outstanding meal is bound to make my ever-changing top ten list--with or without ambience.

Eating last January with Deanna, a great friend, at Dogwood--a great restaurant in Baltimore that partners with a culinary institute that works with those recovering from addiction, homelessness, and incarceration--comes to mind. Recently, escargo and burgers at a local Madison pub, (Lynch and) Malone's, with my sister Liz and friend Mary G before heading off to hear Jodi Picoult really hit the spot. And how could I forget that delicious dinner at The Lobster Pot in Provincetown with Jill, so many moons ago?

Yet sometimes for me the experience that elevates food comes before I sit down to eat it. It comes in preparing it myself. From finding the best, freshest heads of broccoli at the supermarket to getting it home and steaming it to its brightest green hue--all are a part of the experience. I love cooking. It's in our nature to be creative and I love the creative escape of cooking. Some people tend gorgeous gardens, others knit or crochet, some scrapbook. I like to cook. We all like to make nice things. Being creative makes us feel accomplished and contented. I love creating meals that delight, making something for myself, or friends, or both. Cooking makes me feel good.

So many days at school, despite my best efforts to update my arsenal of pop culture references, to create new lessons and curriculum materials, and to be as energetic as was natural when I was in my twenties, I leave deflated, frustrated, not knowing if I got through and understanding that if I did, I might never find out. The other day I had a particularly bad day at school, having spent the last two hours of my day in Bio lab with the most immature 15/16 year olds on the planet. That day it was even more important for me to make something nice, create something good. So I turned to the kitchen and my creative abilities to feel better.

Lucky me, I had fresh arugula on well as other favorite ingredients: mahi mahi and fresh lemons, good olive oil, capers and pasta. So when I got home I got busy in the kitchen and made this wonderful dish that made me feel better. I tossed some arugula in lemon juice and olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and filled the bottom of my dish. On top I put a serving of pasta, also tossed with olive oil and lemon juice and topped it all with the mahi mahi that I seasoned with salt and pepper and seared and cooked in a hot pan with olive oil and a little piccata sauce. It was delicious. Three bites in, I mixed the arugula and pasta. After the fourth bite I took a picture. It looked and tasted good; it changed my mindset.

Cooking and eating dinner made me forget that I spent the better part of my day spitting in the wind. It enabled me to spend my evening and end my day satsified with my creation, my very own spring in a dish.


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


JK said...

Tessa, Thanks for reading. I will check out your website too.

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