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How it Goes

[On the table, June 2011.]

I cooked a lot during the weekend. Woke up to pouring rain (pouring rain! In June!) Saturday morning and decided not to go to my yoga class but couldn’t really sleep in anyway. I dozed and listened to the water bang down in sheets on the windows, my old apartment virtually creaking and swaying in the storm. I often think it’s quite ship-like, and never so much so as when in the midst of a deluge of rain. We read in the soft gloom of 8a and had tea and went to the farmers market, where the guy who sells the eggs sadly was not there but there were cherries! in gorgeous handfuls, and baby spinach with dirt still clinging to its roots, and beets, and tiny carrots, and no asparagus.

I recently wrote a story for NPR, tbd publication but probably this coming Wednesday, which caused the flurry of kitchen activity and photographic effort. The bonus of doing a piece for Kitchen Window is that you are fed for days on leftovers; the downside is that you may have to cook four or five dishes in a day. Well — I do at least. Perhaps the more time-conscious thing to do is to spread it out over a few days … but then I do like the natural light … and I am not home during the day very often … and it sort of works for me to get all done in a day or two in a bit of a mad rush rather than spreading it out. I come up with the recipes, I fine-tune, I gather the ingredients, I cook, and then I take (many) photographs. It’s work I love and am always very happy to do; I wish I could do it more — every day even, or at least once a week.

[Carrots, pickling, June 2011.]

But cooking a lot at one stretch can create adverse effects. Sometimes I am energized by it all, galvanized to keep on going (and going) even if I’m sick to the teeth of washing all the dishes the activity engenders. I’m plotting dinner parties. I’m planning pick-nicks (well, if the darn sun would ever make an appearance). I’m wistfully coveting strange spices at the little grocery store up the street. I’m wondering how I can finagle my way into cooking Father’s Day dinner.

And then other times I can’t stand to cook again for a little while. The thought of whipping, stirring, sifting … it’s all too much. Inspiration has fled, the kitchen is too shiny and bare to be mussed up again, I like the dish towels to remain in their clean piles. Unfortunately this happened just in time for dinner on Saturday night, after the photographs had been edited and safely uploaded for publication. Fortunately, though, there were those fruits of my earlier labors in the form of roasted red and sweet potatoes, a delicate baby lettuce salad with thinly sliced radishes and a lemony vinaigrette, and my personal pièce de résistance — an ethereal and supremely fluffy soufflé that was the best soufflé I’ve ever made, hands down.

That night we feasted — and by ‘feasted’ I mean we ate it all, every single bit. An entire head of lettuce was in the salad! Not a scrap of soufflé was left! It was devoured in about 10 minutes flat, washed down (by me) with an icy cold glass of orange juice that hit all the right spots, particularly, I hope, the one that has not quite fully kicked this lingering cold. It was a sort of breakfast for dinner, but it suited me just fine with the rain still drizzling morosely down outside and some HBO brain candy on the television. It fortified me, I well know, for the slightly enormous run I pushed through on Sunday — but I will save that for another time.

Now it’s Monday afternoon with the dishes washed, the cooking inclination creeping back, the farmers markets shining again with their usual allure, and I am hankering after that soufflé. I want a reprise. I’m analyzing it from a few days out and I stand by my statement: it was the best soufflé that has ever come out of my wee kitchen. Of course it wasn’t my first, but none before it have been quite so addictive. I will save the photos and recipes for Wednesday but I wonder … was it the weather? A trick of fate? The exuberant addition of Parmesan? Spring eggs? June’s gift to the unwitting cook? A reminder to keep on cooking, even when burnout creeps around the edges?

I think I shall have to make another, post haste, to find out.

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