Cooking Alone

What I like about eggs is making them. A single egg, cracked over a hot skillet, a minute thirty on the first side, a minute on the flip. What I dislike about eggs is eating them. They’re uninspired. Still plain, in spite of my efforts, dressing it with kale, tomatoes, and garlic from my own garden. But simple. And unlike my homey carb-seeking impulse for muffins or zucchini bread for breakfast, I can eat it one setting. I plan my muffin baking around potlucks–or commit to eating four a day in order to finish them. Such suffering is life.

As I approached the one year anniversary of my Simply Seasoned Challenge–to finish the remaining three-quarters of the book’s recipes in three years–I indulged my compulsive perfectionist and counted what percent of the book I’d completed. It should have been roundly 50%. I’ve since deliberately forgotten the exact number, but it was crawling toward 46%. That left me about an extra 14 recipes to fit into the coming year, in addition to this year’s 50 recipes.

10-8-potatoes-carrots-pesto

Have you tried to eat a whole recipe of Oven Fries by yourself? I have. (Fail)

Why the failure? Skimming through the unmade summer recipes, I searched for where I’d gone wrong, quickly discovering the obvious: I was single. I’d kept a steady pace through the fall while I dated and dropped off in the spring when my relationship had–telling myself, at the time, that it was because the rhubarb and carrot thinnings came up so slowly (which is equally true). Cooking for and with someone gave me incentive. Cooking alone gave me a strong urge for a second glass of wine. Continue reading

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Polaroid Pictures, Pokemon Go, and Failed Recipes

My plan was to run up to each tree and shake it vigorously, as one would a Polaroid picture. Or, as my friend Eden said on Saturday as she passed me a film from her vintage Polaroid camera, “No! You don’t shake your Polaroid picture!”

It wasn’t a very good plan. The alternative was to use a very long stick but (1) the mere thought of it had me humming “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and (2) required walking a mile in 90 degree weather with a very long stick. So I propped my bike against a streetlight, spread my blanket, and shook as vigorously as I could muster. Nothing happened. Continue reading

Simply Seasoned: Venison and Friends

The carrot came out of the ground deformed. It was three-pronged, like a stubby hand digging in the dirt. And I was proud of it. I was proud of all my ugly carrots–some of them curled in on themselves, two twisted together like Siamese twins. They were mine. They were an art of their own, a created thing.

Carrot Harvest 12.7

Ugly carrot and friends.

Carrots are hard to grow in Northern Illinois, and here I was in December, overflowing with orange roots that weighed nearly half a pound each! I’d dug them out, even though the first snow was two weeks ago, even though it was 35 degrees and raining. I pulled up the fruit of my lazy labor, to see if there was anything to be redeemed from benign neglect. And so I spent the evening chopping carrots, eyeballing how many was two pounds and how many I would have left and how many more recipes I needed to come up with.

Would I have bought my three-fingered carrot in the store? Doubtful. Would I have selected it from a pile of more traditional-looking carrots? Unlikely. But gardening is the practice of falling in love with what you have. And I loved my ugly carrot. I arranged it in the front of my photo so everyone would know how homegrown and awkward it was. It was so intoxicating I ran out in search of rye flour, so I could make a new experimental batch of Seeded Sour Rye Bread. Continue reading

Simply Seasoned: Cooking through A Cookbook in Three Years

Don’t worry. Gathering the Stones is not becoming a food blog. Probably. But the longer I pastor, the more convinced I am that one of the stones that needs an awful lot of gathering is the way we eat. It is one time I thank God for foodies and hipsters. Food is ethical. It should be treated with care. Always. It’s an act of faith.

When I talk about my faith, I talk about the Trinity. Of cookbooks. I talk about the Trinitarian God, too, who interdwells in a relational paradigm and all of that seminary fluff. But when I talk about being Mennonite, I talk about cookbooks. The three ways of eating revealed to us over time, practices that shape faith into our daily lives and   daily bread.

World Community cookbooks

Besides the trinity, of course there are other cookbooks–Mennonite Girls Can Cook or Fix-it-and-Forget-It or all the church and community cookbooks we’ve grown. To my mind, those are saints alongside the trinity. But only the trinity is canonical. Continue reading