Sunday, February 17, 2013

Entered Into With Abandon

I woke up early. No particular reason, I certainly wasn't thinking about how old I'm getting - I just heard Sara stirring about, and that was it. It was five in the morning, and still dark, but I could see the frost rounding out the corners of the window since the yard lights were on next door. I haven't camped out in the cold in a while, but it's the first thing I thought of. There's something romantic about it, I think - waking up to your breath hovering in front of you, feeling the first bracing wave of air tighten your skin, and the slippery feel of wood smoke as you try to warm up again. It's easier in the summer, days spent outside don't have a sense of urgency attached to them, but in the cold it's all about survival... not to say that I've been at the brink of death outside, because I haven't, but in the cold there is a greater sense of purpose. But there I was, under the edge of the covers that Sara hadn't pulled onto her side yet, dreaming about the cold, and I needed to cook something.
I didn't need to eat something, mind you, just needed to cook it.
It's been a while. I laid there, toes dangling outside the sheets, and tried to figure out how long. I don't remember how it started, but it seems like years that I've been going through the motions, sharpening knives and starting fires because it's what I do. But right then, I was swirling in it again... and it's funny, I don't really think about food, I think about the process of food. I think about the way a really sharp knife holds on to a cutting board when it sinks in a little, like when it holds on to a bone as meat slips away from it. I think about raspberries melting under hot sugar, about the skin on pork bellies cracking under heat. I think about changing my mother's stollen recipe so that I can braid it into an Estonian Kringel. I think about buying salmon so that I can salt cure it with beets and black pepper... and I can't wait till my kids eat mushrooms so that I can carve little intertwined fish into the caps.
I think about the sound of peaches as they pull away from their pits, and the way firm tuna yawns away from the bone when it's trimmed. I think about tying bunches of asparagus with blanched spring onions and how raw honey feels on my cheeks as it dissolves. Crisp potato crusts, mother of pearl caviar spoons, wonton wrappers, lemongrass and pin bones. I dream of making poached eggs not because I want to eat them, but I like the process of a gently placing them into a simmering vortex just right, so the whites shudder from the heat and envelop the yolk in a swaddling blanket. I think of epic culinary failures, grand successes, and everything in between.
Most of all, in the morning air, I am unmanageably happy despite my cold feet, because for the first time in a long time, the work makes sense again. Before anyone is awake I slowly grind coffee beans and tamp them just so, whisk eggs with Dijon and Murray River pink salt, and warm my hands in the griddle smoke... and at work I think of coming home to softened cepes and starting something new.
And for weeks, despite the world's sincere effort to ruin my mood, I spend at least a few minutes of each day filled with absolute joy because of the simplest things... and at the moment, a few minutes is all I need.

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