To the kitchen!

I have out-of-town guests this weekend, so I’ve been cooking even more than usual. This morning we had oatmeal with raisins and apples. My friend loves oatmeal and always requests it, and taught me to put in pumpkin pie spice. It’s a tasty variation. I eat hot cereal almost every day, so I’m happy to oblige. She could crave something far more complex, and I’m just not equipped to function much first thing in the morning. I think she knows this. Most people learn this pretty early on in our friendship.

I made some pasta for lunch, wilting some spinach in amongst the whole wheat spirals. Yum! My mother was a good cook, and so am I, although my culinary legacy has veered from hers. I don’t spend my afternoons wrapping bacon around oysters and water chestnuts, and you won’t find me making a tender steak teriyaki. I’m a vegan, so those foods don’t appear on my menu. I do love to cook for people, and that’s where we have a lot in common.

I also enjoy cooking for myself. At the moment, I’m a single person. Sometimes I get busy and since there’s no one to complain I’ll occasionally eat cold cereal and toast all day. It’s okay as a variation, but I think it’s important to cook. Cooking is cheaper than eating out, and it’s far easier to control the results. Just as I love to show my friendship by preparing meals for the people I care about, I think it’s good to show myself that I’m worth the nurturing that a hot meal can provide. Today I even baked.

I don’t eat sugar anymore, so I made myself a loaf of Irish soda bread. It’s quick, easy, and the recipe I use is healthy. Soda bread doesn’t require yeast, and doesn’t need to sit or rise, and it’s delicious with a nice cup of tea. Eating fresh baked bread makes me feel like I’m surrounded by family and friends, even when I’m all alone in my apartment. Buddha said that giving to the self is also giving. We remember to take care of others, but it’s so hard to treat ourselves with the same kind of attention. It’s time to fire up the oven and fix that.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
243. How do you like to show your friends you care? What makes you feel loved and cherished? Do that thing for yourself this week. How does it make you feel?  If you’d like to try your hand at soda bread, here’s my favorite recipe:

I like to add 2 tbsp. of caraway seed to the recipe, and I always add yellow raisins. If you want something more savory, you can leave those out. I’ve also tried making it by soaking the raisins in brandy and/or whiskey first (YUM) and one day when I was out of caraway I put in 1 tbsp. of anise (I may have increased the sugar slightly–I can’t remember). It was a nice breakfast bread that reminded me of the yellow anise biscotti I grew up with in New York.


And they read my blog

Today is my parent’s forty-fourth wedding anniversary. There are so many different things I could say about that. Love and commitment are magical things, allowing us to work together with our partners through both difficult and fun times. My parents have done all that, and met the challenge. I salute them.

They’ve done a lot for me too, of course. I am here because they are together, and I’m very grateful for that. I’m also grateful for the many things my parents have given me over the years. My dad gave me his love for math and puzzles, and a basic curiosity about how things are put together. I remember taking things apart in the garage with him, seeing the insides of radios and televisions as he’d fix a tricky tube or wire. We used to do the math puzzles in Scientific American, and we’d work on physical puzzles, too. My dad can slip a popsicle stick into your shirt in such a tricky way that you really have to think to get it off without cheating. I still love mechanical puzzles.

My mom gave me my love of books, vocabulary, and research in general. She was always reading something, and I’d ask her about tricky words as I climbed my own way up the literature ladder. She taught me to always look up words I didn’t know, so that I might recognize them the next time I saw them. I still do that, and it’s a habit that serves me well. My mom also gave me my love of cooking and experimentation. She fed us all kinds of foods growing up, so I’ve never been afraid to try anything. We ate snails and seafood, curries and sushi. I have an adventurous palate to this day.

Both of my parents have a love of adventure, of people, of music, of art. I’m sure that I’m a writer because of all that they shared with me while I was growing up. The limited space of this column is too short to properly thank them, but I hope they’ll take this little tip of the iceberg. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! Carpe diem!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

81. What have your parents done for you? Let them know that you appreciate it, even if it isn’t their anniversary.