Five o’clock is a time so many people look forward to. The end of the work day; the transition into time at home with family, out with friends or time to pursue interests outside your work life. Certainly, the working world does not stop at five like it once did. Many people work longer hours or more flexible hours, but even so, it still seems like a time of day people take note of and switch gears.
The same is certainly true at our house. As the clock ticks towards five, the girls quickly do their jobs (setting the table and feeding the cat). Then at five the girls each get to choose a show to watch on the television and I get to cook and talk to my sister on the phone. Most of the time I really look forward to and enjoy this time at the end of every day. Though not always. Lately I’ve been uninspired. Perhaps it is the end of winter and I am ready for a new lot of ingredients. Perhaps I’m just in a rut.
The other day I was speaking to my mum during this time and she asked what I was cooking. I told her I was making a spelt and kale risotto and that I expected push back tonight. She was surprised, “Your kids are always so good about trying new food!” Yes they are and I’m very happy about that. Lately, however, they have been protesting before even trying things. Then after a few bites they tell me it is delicious and ask, “Mama, can you please never stop making this?” As I was relating this to her I realized I am constantly making new dishes. This is fun in a way, but sometimes I don’t have the energy or interest for learning a new recipe and listening to the protests at the end of my efforts. Sometimes I just want to make something (that is healthy – there’s the catch) and something that everyone loves. I need some family classics, something everyone can get excited about when it lands on the table.
Then today I found this thoughtful post about this very dilemma. (Go ahead and read it, its a good one.) As I read the post, I realized that I needed to spend some time cooking the same things over and over, practicing, tweaking and offering them more than a handful of times. I think I have not wanted to do this because it seems boring. Cooking the same things does not seem as exciting as the inspiration that leaps out at me from the alluring photos in my beautiful cookbooks. But, there is the quiet satisfaction of incremental improvements; of honing a dish; of making it mine, and perhaps one that could even become a family favorite. From this perspective I realize that spelt kale risotto does not deserve an exuberant reception for its debut at our dinner table. More is required.
Now, I can see that cooking the same dishes does not have to mean drudgery at the end of my day. Instead it can provide the comfort of repetition, the satisfaction of feeding my family a meal that is good for them, which they love and one that I make well. Here it crosses over from a monotonous task to be endured to the meaningful ritual. Yes, this feels like a step in the right direction… Bon appétit!