Wednesday, June 20, 2012

such fullness

Once each week, I make dinner for my housemates. The thing I’m not sure my housemates know is that this commitment is just as much for me as it is for them. It’s a weekly meditation, a ritual that reminds me that with raw, unformed ingredients and an hour of concentration (ok, and maybe a recipe and a little bit of know-how), a table can be prepared. 

Planning ahead is key. If I feel rushed or harried, the whole process loses its meditative quality. These dinners usually happen on Wednesdays, so by Tuesday night, I’ve chosen the recipes (it almost always involves a new recipe these days) and purchased the ingredients. That means when I get home from work, I go into my zone.

You know what I mean by my zone, right? It’s when I’m completely focused and involved. It’s a rare experience to be completely absorbed in a task, but somehow cooking takes me there. Even if one of my housemates is in the kitchen with me, I rarely talk, and I try not to feel guilty about this. If they ask me if I need help, I almost always refuse, because cooking this way is a solo dance for me. It’s not that I don’t enjoy cooking with other people, but I need to be able to be conscious of what I’m doing, and being present to people often distracts me. Preparing a meal is a full sensory experience — I get to smell, listen, touch, taste, and see. (I once read that the best utensils are our bare hands. I need to try this more!) Inevitably I cut myself or spill something every time, but getting messy is part of the process; I’m slowly coming to terms with that fact. Oil sizzles, sauces bubble, dishes bang around the sink, slowly filling it up — my guilty pleasure is cooking like they do on food shows, preparing each ingredient and laying them out in their own bowls or plates so that they’re ready when you need them. Buzzers beep. 

And then it’s time. 

Each dish is brought to the table, water is poured, and if we’re lucky or feeling generous, we get the wine glasses out, too. I sit down, usually exhausted but also satisfied (even before we eat), and let myself breathe and talk and look at the people around me. We pray, we serve, we taste, then sit back, grateful to be given such fullness in our lives.

Tonight I’m making this Thai dish along with some eggplant. My favorite meal in the past few months was these Mediterranean lamb meatballs. What are you making these days? And what gets you into your zone?


  1. I love your description of how you getting into 'your zone.' I felt like I got a look into your psyche kind of like how we are able to in Keri Russel's character in "Waitress." Fun!