Before my baby was born, spending time in the kitchen was my meditation. In the many apartments I’d lived in prior to moving in with my Newfoundland-bred partner, I had transformed the tiny work space of falling-apart cupboards (and sometimes no cupboards) to a space of food productivity, pleasure, and inspiration.
My cupboards, or shelves, were adorned with stacks of mason jars holding heavily used spices such as zaatar, lavender, and long pepper. Amidst the spices were dried herbs of rosemary, lemon verbena, and coriander harvested from my own garden. My freezer was stashed with many varieties of local foods, put away for our long Atlantic coastal winters when I hungered for a simple raspberry and apple buckwheat crumble or a rhubarb muffin. I always had too many preserves to ever realistically consume. Summer and fall were often spent foraging for foods and turning them into jewelled jams, or lavender peaches for winter oatmeals, or honeyed plums to stash into a cake.
I loved my kitchen. And now that my small one is just a year old, and eating both anything and everything and absolutely nothing (depending on the mood of the day, the texture, taste, and general humour of the moment), my time in the kitchen has become a meditation for both myself and my family. My household now contains two stepchildren and a toddler: one a teenager, another in elementary school, and a babe with just a few teeth to speak of. All have such different tastes. If I had it my way, my partner and I would eat a simple rotation of five meals: Korean (either pancakes or bibimbap), an assortment of curries, Mexican anything, a vegetable tofu stirfry, and one new recipe to experiment with. Happy foods, food to make your belly smile and your heart glow.
A place of happiness
Now, I find my time in the kitchen comes both at the expense of others, as well as the benefit of myself. I want to feed and nourish these children, and our home, and I like to experiment with new and interesting food. This is often not what our children want of course. But I also want for our kitchen to be a source of pleasure for them too. I want it to be a place of happiness, not one of stress. So while my own anxieties may grow as I try to prepare what sometimes turns into four separate meals for supper, I try not to let it show (too often). Instead, I try to make sure everyone is simply excited about the smells drifting from the kitchen: the scent of thyme and chicken broth and homegrown bay leaf in soup, the crunch of our farm-grown carrots as baby gnaws on them, and the excitement of spreading hot partridgeberry jam just out of the pot onto baked bread. Each person has their own tastes, and they are all such delightful tastes.
As for myself, I delight in the rare moment where we all sit together for a meal, and eat the exact same thing with few or no complaints. The dutch baby pancake made with gluten-free flour in our well-seasoned cast iron pan, filled with vanilla-spiced pears from our farm – there is no Saturday morning breakfast more wonderful than that which is enjoyed by everyone. That breakfast had its moment, and it may not come again for some time, but I’ll try to replicate future meals with equal delight as I whisk flours and spices with a baby strapped to my back. And as my older children debate using pears vs. apples, or vanilla vs. cinnamon, I simply hope that the combination of ingredients and optimism and hunger wins out, just one more time.