Saturday, July 24, 2010

Long Live the Kitchen Table

There have been a couple times in the last few weeks when I have been in the kitchen and felt entirely at peace - which is a funny thing to say, because it is usually the times when I have two things going on the stove and something in progress on the counter, and a growing sink of dishes. It's like that old saying about the duck - serenely floating above the water, paddling like mad beneath - except that for once I actually feel like the top part of the duck!

(And here is how life with Cora is currently affecting me: I have an irresistible need to say Guess what? Duck butt!)

I am having a good and successful time using up nearly everything from our Harmony Valley CSA box. (I cannot say enough good things about Harmony Valley.) I found a new cobbler recipe that is quick and easy and comes out the way I want it to. I made a cherry pie with cherries from a friend's trees that I loved, which is amazing, because I have not, historically, had much interest in cherry pies.

Every summer it seems like there are a few dishes that become the Dish of the Summer and that get made about every other week, or more frequently. And I'm not just talking about things like quesadillas or ham and pea pasta! Last summer it was a black-eyed pea-feta-and tomato salad. This summer it has been my version of a Rick Bayless Beans-Greens-and-Chorizo taco filling and a wilted spinach and bacon and egg salad. What I find astonishing here is the presence of greens and spinach - not previously staples of our table - but this summer we are all about the greens. Even Cora, though she is a dedicated raw food purist when it comes to her vegetables. And her fruits - she is not a fan of pie. Or cobbler. Or tarts. Or even blueberry pancakes (!!) - she wants her blueberries on the side, please.

The kitchen often feels like the one area of the house, and my life, that I am in control of, or where I feel fully prepared and competent. Even though our kitchen is off in a corner of the house, it feels like the center. And if I can keep centered there, then I can carry that into the other areas.

I admit it: lately I envision myself as an octopus. Only psychically, of course. Or does that sound worse? But, I do try to pull myself, my tendrils or tentacles, from that center, that calm and knowing center, rather than from the places where it all feels like chaos and limbo and anger and sadness. Those are the places I am not enjoying finding myself lately. Not much gets created in those places that is going to nourish anyone.

Today I ran into the poem "Perhaps the World Ends Here" by Joy Harjo. Her first line is "The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live." And later she writes "It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human."

Oh yes. And this summer, I would say that the instructions served up by our kitchen table are: Be creative. Learn to love what you thought you would not. Make something your own. Know where you are safe, and how to carry that safety with you.

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