I know this isn’t exactly a new concept – mothers around the world have known this for years (and every time I go home for a visit I am very thankful for that!) but it really struck me this morning how much I embrace this concept. I love to cook. I love being in my kitchen, puttering around, pulling out whatever random ingredients I may have squirreled away in my cabinets or refrigerator, playing with ideas, and then sitting down to enjoy the (usually) delicious creations that come from my imagination. I am not much of one for recipes. I do have several cookbooks but I can probably count on both hands the number of times in my adult life I have actually cooked from a recipe. But my best cooking happens when my heart is full of love.
Just in the past 2 days this has been demonstrated to me very vividly in 2 different ways that got me on this train of thought.
Me and my stage manager ladies all dressed up in Atlanta last month
Last night my dear friends Jessica and Deanna called me. We are all stage managers working on 2 different shows at school right now. They were in the middle of their big, hellish, 12 hour tech rehearsal and I had just finished my 5 hour rehearsal with my cast. They called me up to see if I wanted to join them for dinner, and Deanna kind of jokingly asked if I could cook for them. Now, I had JUST walked in the door, hadn’t even taken my shoes off yet, had no clue what for sure I had in my house, and I could have viewed this as a pain or a chore or said “Hell no! But I will meet you and go to Taco Hell or Sonic the Gut Buster”. But instead I got that happy feeling because I knew that no matter what, I could pull together a meal from what I had in my house that would be a whole lot healthier, tastier, and more soul fulfilling to send them back into another 6 hours of insanity at the theatre. So I said “Come on over…I will have dinner for you in 15 minutes”.
Here is what I pulled together without a glance at a recipe:
- Very first, I pulled out 2 bags of dried cheese tortellini that I always keep on hand and dropped them in a pan of boiling water to start cooking. Seriously, $1.50 a bag from Walmart and it beats the ones that cost twice the price for half the amount at the grocery store! I never let my stash drop below 2 bags because it is the simplest meal when I am short on time and motivation.
- Next I grabbed an onion, cut it in half, diced it and started sautéing it in olive oil, then when it started to get soft added a spoon of chopped garlic, because everything good starts with onion and garlic sautéed in olive oil!
- I found 4 pieces of bacon and chopped it into pieces and tossed that in with the onion to cook up a bit, because everything is also improved by the addition of bacon.
- Once all that looked pretty well cooked I pulled out 1/2 a bottle of wine from my fridge and gave a good glug of that in the pan and another good dash of lemon juice, 2-3 Tb. of butter and a big handful of fresh broccoli florets and let it simmer for a minute or two.
- In the meantime I used a little tupperware and did a slurry of about 4 Tb flour and 1/4 cup of half & half I had hiding in the back of my fridge. Once the broccoli looked a little tender I stirred the flour slurry into the mix and let it start to thicken a bit.
- The mix obviously needed more liquid so I grabbed some milk and poured in a bit until it looked a better consistency. At that point the pasta was done so I also poured about 1/2 cup of the pasta water in the sauce and just let it keep simmering for a bit to thicken and blend the flavors.
- When my friends arrived I added the 1/2 bag of cooked chicken strips Jessica brought and the remnants of a couple bags of mixed Italian cheeses and parmesan, turned off the heat, stirred in the drained tortellini, added a little pepper and…DINNER!
All this took less than 20 minutes from start to finish, I never once looked at a recipe or cookbook, and I might not ever make that sauce exactly the same way again, but it was absolutely delicious. Maybe not Cooking Light material, but a lot healthier (and more satisfying) than burger and double order of onion rings or Taco Bell’s signature 88% meat blend Real food, prepared with joy for my good friends. Being able to create that for them wasn’t an imposition, it was an act of love to be able to offer that and then share their company while we all enjoyed the fruits of my labor.
Then this morning was a completely different way for me to realize how food can be a way of showing love and care, but this time for myself. I woke up in a good mood, took the dog out to breath some fresh spring air, and wanted to do something more than just toast a bagel for breakfast. Since it is my one day off from rehearsals I decided to take the time to make myself real breakfast. I rustled up a couple extra slices of that bacon from last night. While that was cooking I mixed 3 eggs with a dash of the remaining half & half, a pinch of dried thyme, salt and pepper. Once the bacon cooked I pulled it out and drained the excess grease. I added the eggs to the pan and scrambled them up with just that hint of bacon flavor, a sprinkle of cheese and a piece of whole wheat toast on the side.
This was my way of being able to show love for myself. That I deserve the time and care to create delicious food for ME and not only when other people are around to appreciate it. So now, with all the doors and windows open to welcome in the cool spring air, my Pandora radio station playing some Michael Franti and Carol King, my dog curled up on my blanket, and me ready to dig into some homework before the week starts up again, I am feeling pretty darn content, happy, and loving today! However, I may start trading me cooking dinner for the happy recipients getting my resulting dishes done, because the sink full of plates and pans is less loving
Nerys says hi and happy spring!