Archive for February 7th, 2009

The Zen of Cooking

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

I really should be cooking dinner.

I’m a really good cook.  I learned watching my grandmother, who could make boiled shoes taste good.  I started helping her when I was so small I had to stand on a chair to reach the counter.  She would let me mix and add ingredients or let me taste, and I watched everything she did.  She made dumplings by pouring milk into a mound of flour on the counter.  She measured by dropping salt into her hand, dumping a little sugar in and then a little more, cutting a hunk from a stick of butter or scooping out a huge spoon of mayonnaise.  It always came out right.

Cooking is therapeutic.   It’s the best Zen practice I know, the only way I’ve ever found to be present in the moment consistently.  I can zone out while mixing and chopping and grinding.  I can enjoy the rhythm of the knife chopping veggies, the feel of dough pushing back as I kneed, the sound of sizzling oil and meat in a hot skillet.  Just cooking.  None of the day to day problems of life,  nothing to take my attention from what I am doing right now.

I almost never cook anymore.  Over the last few years, life got in the way of cooking, and I got out of the habit.  I miss it sometimes, but when the mood hits now, I find I no longer have ingredients in the pantry.  I buy spaghetti sauce in cans and vegetables already chopped and frozen.  Convenience over communion.

Someday, when my life is calm again, I will spend long hours in the kitchen decorating cakes and  making stews and feeding sourdough starter.  I’ll take the time to make big green salads and fresh pasta.  I’ll can tomatoes and beans and fresh corn.  I will revel in the peace of a sunlit kitchen and the joy of simple work.

But for now, I’ll order pizza.