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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kitchen Musings


Although I’ve lost a great deal over the course of the past half-decade, I’ve found something precious, too: a renewed joy in cooking.

I’ve spent many a year living alone in my teens and twenties and, now, in my fifties. I always did what I had to do to keep house – vacuuming, laundry, maintenance, washing floors and windows – all the tasks that needed doing got done did. Cooking was never a “task” though. No, cooking was always something much more. It’s a skill, an adventure, a meditation, a sensual pleasure, a grounding and, sometimes (when I cook for others) a gift.

Nowadays I pretty much cook all my own meals. Over the course of this past winter, almost all my meals were prepared in a slow cooker (“crockpot” to us boomers). I love the aromas that fill my home during those frigid, gloomy days when all the windows are shuttered tight. The scents alone are worth the effort.

Given that my slow cooker is in constant use, it stands to reason that I subsist almost exclusively on soups and stews, chili’s, tagines, jambalayas, gumbos and curries. Ah, curries! Oh, how I love the smell of curries! I’m inordinately fond of Thai curries, those magical combinations of sweet coconut and fiery spices. I’ve reveled in yellow, green and red curries galore. (Incidentally, those happen to be the colors of the Lithuanian flag. Coincidence?) But one must not live on Thai curries alone. Oh, no. Indian curries have a cherished place in my heart, too. Cumin and coriander weave their own olfactory magic.

My greatest delight is peeling and grating fresh ginger root.

One cannot cook without ample stores of onions and garlic.

I got a “thing” for mushrooms. You can interpret that in various ways...all valid.

I enjoy saying "paprika."

Allspice and tarragon scare me. In just the right amounts, they add a certain magic to a dish. Add just a wee bit too much and one experiences taste bud hell. Cilantro is third runner-up.

One bay leaf is all it takes. I add two. I’m just greedy that way.

Okra is the wallflower of vegetables. It doesn’t matter how much okra one adds in a recipe. It simply disappears.

Cinnamon and cloves make me happy.

* * *

20 Comments:

Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

Your kitchen sounds much like mine... although usually when the crockpot is doing its thing, so the bread machine is baking.

Those smells together are almost orgasmic!

Sun Mar 21, 12:23:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Come to think of it, I haven't munched on fresh bread in a long, long time (the orgasms haven't been all that frequent either).

Now I'm feeling despondent.

Sun Mar 21, 01:36:00 AM  
Blogger June Calender said...

Wonderful! It's 7:00 in the a.m. and I'm suddenly hungry for curry, any kind, they all sound great. you can come cook at my house any day. I'm an impatient and slapdash cook and could take lessons from you, both for recipes and mindfulness.

Sun Mar 21, 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger Cheesy said...

A friend of mine used to send me green curry from Guam..DAMMIT I wish she still lived there!~~~~

"all valid"---YIPPY! lol

Sun Mar 21, 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

I love garlic, onion, olive oil and the king of all..butter. As Julia Child said, butter makes everything taste good. Food is very important. What we put in our bodies fuels our brains, our sex drive, our joints, etc. etc. I try to avoid modern medicine as much as possible. A good friend who is only 45 is already taking 7 drugs (mostly to counter the cholesterol drug her doc has her on at an already dangerously low 170 level). Now that is malpractice.
But he's her god. She won't listen to me.
Here's to good eating!

Sun Mar 21, 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Sad to say, June, I write better than I cook. But, yes, that "mindfulness" thing is one of the joys I find in cooking. Cooking is very much a zen pursuit in my kitchen.

Remind me to tell you someday, Queen Cheese, about an afternoon spent in Vondel Park in Amsterdam, surrounded by flocks of green parrots.

Funny thing, Yvonne, I just realized I haven't had butter in my home for months. Slow cooker recipes pretty much start with a base of beef, chicken or vegetable broths, or coconut milk or wine. Butter beans are the closest I've come to adding butter to a recipe.

Sun Mar 21, 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Kass said...

In this fast-paced world, it's nice to hear of a man who can cook things slowly. Hmmmm.

Sun Mar 21, 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Smiler said...

Sounds delightful! I feel like I've just had a painting described to me. I wish some of your joy for cooking rubbed off on me. Or my mother's for that matter. She's always been such a great cook and I always felt my attempts were just decent. I enjoyed cooking for company but since I've been living alone for most of my adult life, I've lost the taste for it. Incidentally, I grew of on curries and Indian food since we were vegetarian when I was growing up and my mum loved the cuisine for all the spices and flavour and diversity. Maybe you can send care packages my way? :-)

Sun Mar 21, 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger Cheesy said...

Amsterdam?? Oh I am pulling up the chair and blankie! Do tell.....

And dear one.. You MUST invest in some butter if I am making storytelling snacks

Sun Mar 21, 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Wine and Words said...

Ummm...what time is dinner? All your flavors melding in my mouth, and I really don't care if I reak of garlic and onions tomorrow.

I have found cooking to be such joy over the last few years. It's because I cook only for me now, no small children asking for chicken nuggets and hotdogs.

I fill the room with Joe Bonamassa, Marc Broussard, or Ella Fitzgerald...pour a nice glass of old vine Zinfandel and make love with my knives!

Mon Mar 22, 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Ah yes, well...ummm...thanks, Kass! There are certain pursuits in life best done without haste, with a certain degree of manual dexterity, all senses engaged and attuned to the spice...

I know what you mean, Smiler. I had kinda drifted away from the joy of cooking meself. I'm glad I've drifted back. I love Middle East, Indian and Asian cuisines for all the same reasons.

My great shame, Ms. Cheese, is that I've no talent for baking anything other than my own brain.

WOWZA, Ms. WaW!! Joe Bonamassa!!!

You Django, Grrl! He ain't exactly on everyone's iPod. Luckily for me, our lead guitarist is a connoisseur of brilliant ax-men the likes of Nuno Bettencourt, Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci and Eric Johnson. He drags me to concerts and I get blown away. You breathe rarified air, my friend.

And, oh: 'making love with knives' is gonna be percolating in my brain pot for some time to come...

Mon Mar 22, 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger Wine and Words said...

Hee Hee. I'm smilin' Jonas. Big effin smiles.

Mon Mar 22, 04:19:00 PM  
OpenID foldingfields said...

love this post. that's it.

Mon Mar 22, 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gabriela Abalo said...

Wow Jonas,
I love your post, I can smell all the way from Zambia the aromas of your kitchen... Can I came for dinner?
I love cooking too, cooking is an adventure, an art, a pleasure.
I enjoy very much preparing Indian dishes, casseroles, seafood and baking cakes.
I love it when my kitchen smell to a mixture of scents and the people passing by come to check what are you up to… because the smell is so inviting that is watering their mouth..
Then the pleasure of seeing others enjoying what you have prepared, smelling it and tasting it with delight… as one of your readers says, the whole experience is almost orgasmic!!

Great post!

loveNlight
Gabi

Tue Mar 23, 04:22:00 AM  
Blogger rebecca said...

I find that men are sometimes better cooks than women because they "enjoy" the whole process a bit more and thus cook with love and gusto which makes all the difference in the world. For many women cooking becomes part and parcel of wife/mother responsibility, but not so for a man. Hence, they are better cooks because they're loving what they do.

My husband is a fantastic cook. He too sees it as a form of meditation and nothing gives him more joy than to cook for others. He's in his element.


I love Thai, onions and garlic. I don't care for mushrooms but love coriander (cilantro). I love, love, love this herb. I include it in salads and soups quite liberally.

Reading your post made me hungry :)

Tue Mar 23, 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I can't help but think that y'all read my entry on empty bellies.

Yes, Gabi, cooking for others is an act of love.

You may very well be right, rebecca. Cooking as an "obligation" is far different from cooking as a "pursuit/gift". Then,again, I cook each day in order to feed my face. I still get off on it, though.

I got a quibble with you regarding coriander/cilantro. I dearly love ground coriander seeds as a spice. I go through vast quantities of the stuff. Fresh cilantro leaves? Nope. Dangerous stuff. Too much and...well...the dish is ruined.

Then again, each palate is unique and each believes one's own.

Tue Mar 23, 11:51:00 PM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

I have to agree with you about the coriander/cilantro thing, Jonas. Coriander I love (did you know the centre of those little black jawbreakers were a whole coriander seed when we were kids?) but cilantro was an acquired taste. My first taste of it, I didn't really care for it. Now I can take it in limited doses in certain dishes.

Wed Mar 24, 12:14:00 AM  
Blogger Scott from Oregon said...

Food is the true joy second only to sex...

Thu Mar 25, 12:25:00 AM  
Blogger anna said...

Call me odd, but this post was tremendously erotic and while reading it I was imagining things that made me blush.

Sun Mar 28, 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Odd, Anna!?! Hardly. The comments proffered above would indicate that more than just a few of us have healthy appetites.

A chocolate-covered strawberry first grazed across an erect nipple...then shared...savored...

Sun Mar 28, 04:03:00 PM  

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