Monday, August 29, 2011

Moments in the kitchen

I'm back in Victoria, back in the land of moderate temperatures and occasionally remembering I live by the ocean. I'm wearing long pants but no socks, and actually wore a light jacket this morning.  Classic late summer in Victoria.

It's so good being home after being away for seven weeks.  The fact that I'm in my own home and that I'm away from the high temperatures means that I feel like cooking and baking all the time.  It's not that I didn't have access to a kitchen while I was away: on the contrary, I even made this on my last week staying with the in-laws:

(The little-sister-in-law's wedding also played a major role in my being a little too busy to blog for the last part of our SK trip.)

But I didn't realise how much I had been homesick for my own kitchen until I made my porridge here on Sunday morning, and was all "Hello, My Own Measuring Cups! I missed you so much!"  And so, between the cooling weather, the overwhelming joy about being reunited with my own utensils and appliances, and my need to work through some challenges with my current chapter, I've been finding myself retreating to the kitchen.

I've also been thinking about what I love so much about preparing food.  I got reflecting on it again this afternoon, as I started making some polenta for our supper.  And I started making an incomplete list of my favourite moments in cooking and baking (in no particular order):
1. That instant, when making polenta, when the cornmeal I'm whisking in the boiling water suddenly thickens, and instead of having a loose mixture of cornmeal and water, I have this gloopy cornmealy mush that's sputtering everywhere.  (This is also one of the more exciting parts of my cooking process.)
2. The moment when sugar becomes caramel, and I have to pay close attention to the colour of it, so that it gets to be a satisfying dark colour but doesn't get burnt.
2a) The satisfying way in which caramel bubbles up and hisses when you add butter and cream to it, when making caramel sauce. 
3. (2b?) Turning a crème caramel out on a platter, and discovering that the caramel really did turn to liquid while the egg mixture hardened into a custard.  Simultaneously! In the same pan! Science!
4. Lifting off the lid of the heavy dutch oven and finding that a once-tough piece of meat has turned into something tender and wonderful, like pulled pork.

Those sorts of moments (along with that one when you open the oven and and see the golden tops of baked bread or pies) are what drive me to the kitchen, they're what get me finding excuses to make caramel sauce (admittedly more than my love of consuming caramel sauce): these physical and chemical transformations that, even when I understand the science behind them, seem like magic. I really still haven't lost my sense of wonder in the kitchen.  (Okay, one more moment like that: when I first try something that I have made, and discover that it actually tastes like food!  I still can't believe that's possible.)

I need a little more of a sense of wonder in my day.  Because there's not a lot of wonder or magic in the process of trying to get the words in my head to cooperate with the words on the computer screen, or in trying to make some sense of this current chapter.

You know, I used to have a sense of wonder about history and about writing.  Maybe it's time to reconnect with that.

(And now I'll stop rambling and eat one of those cookies that I made today.  Chris sure isn't complaining about the time I spent in the kitchen today.)


Teacher Lady said...

One of my favourite food preparations is cutting raw meat (much to the disgust of my friends from high school).

liz said...

Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

What a beautiful cake! And yum caramel sauce...I think I need to make some when I get home.

My favorite cooking moment is that moment when you're sauteing mushrooms and they give up their liquid and suddenly you have these delicious buttery things that didn't exist a moment ago.


Queen of West Procrastination said...

Yes! That is an amazing cooking moment, Liz!

Also: the smell of onions, carrots and celery sautéeing together.