aromatic cooking

Tonight I carefully slice into a red bell pepper, then a green one, and finally a cheerful purple onion. I cut a quarter wedge from each of these and slice as thinly as my patience will allow. I am exhausted, and I am trying to prepare a new dish. So I move slowly; but I do move. I heat up two types of tortillas (microwave under a damp cloth napkin) and wrap them in heavy foil packets into the warmed oven. Having pickled a jalapeño (while the others roast in oil and salt), I dice it finely and add to the marinade hosting thick tempeh slices. I halve cherry tomatoes into a bowl and gently combine them with a little oil, salt, sugar: set aside. I fry up the seitan chick’n strips – having pre-baked them dry and chewy in the oven – and add the peppers and onions and more pickled jalapeño. The kitchen warms brilliantly with the fragrance of peppers and onions and the family cheers a little. Finally: I slice avocado, bring out the lime cashew cream, and the purple slaw, my husband prepared earlier. We don’t set the table as my work is spilled across it, but join one another convivially on the couch to watch a quaint baking show before we go our separate ways again for the evening.

We eat well every night. This is a habit I brought from my own family of origin: a good one. In my own small household the tone has changed now that the children’s appetites have grown. What used to be a meal and leftovers, is now scraped clean in one setting. We cook from scratch: gravies, sauces, vegan cheeses, breads. A favorite: the hot, flat pizza pies bubbling out the oven, one at a time as we have only one pizza pan. I like a wedge salad alongside this sort of thing but often I’m too tired to add this nicety.

I’m overworked and overwhelmed and it has come time to seriously consider how to take time off. I’ve habituated myself to work. Today in moving about in my studio with the firm intention of merely prewashing fabric to leave for tomorrow I thought, I’ll just draft this pattern piece and then, I’ll just sew on these buttons. Since I can’t quite refrain from doing work, I realize I will just have to pick a day to forbid it. I dread it: I wonder how I can thus prepare. It will take a mental re-arrangement. But I can do it.

Today was sunny but not as cold as earlier in the week; after errands and groceries I meet a friend for coffee, I buy her vanilla latte and she fills me in on her life. Home after dinner I put some time in on the hotline for which I volunteer. Ralph and I are still doing a bit of side work besides, affording the mortgage and the debt and the Christmas gifts and those little things that go awry for family life: the dishwasher won’t drain and the dog needs a professional grooming. Nevertheless even today I get down and scrub the tiled floor a little, wipe down the fridge and the stove and the cabinet by the kitchen garbage. Resources may be scant but I’ve a job or two to do in any case.

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dry goods

Living Room

I have these waves of beyond-exhaustion that come and go. Life is not easy at the moment, but it there is much to be grateful. I am bone-tired but also exhilarated; a nearly bottomless fount of creative energy, and a lot of wonderful support from my community. We have our health. Ralph’s job is going well, and the kids are thriving. We’ve got Christmas handled but that said, it’s always a challenge for me to pace myself during such an intense time of the year.

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Did you like what you’ve read? The above essay is excerpted from my upcoming publication: “HOW TO NOT F*CK UP YOUR KID (ANY MORE THAN THE WORLD F*CKS WITH THEM)” – working title. This zine improve your parenting efforts, but is also helpful to those of us who survived our childhoods!

This publication will be available on Kindle, pdf and reader form, and a limited-edition print run. Sign up for updates!


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