Because I've worked every day since I returned from vacation, I took off early yesterday and have a full day off today. All three of my children are here, as well as #1 Son's new friend, Pretty Poet. She arrived by bus from Slice of the Big Apple yesterday. We spent part of the afternoon looking at his baby pictures and most of the rest cooking another ridiculously complicated and delicious dinner. #1 Son is clearly his grandfather's grandson. Papa has always cooked for pleasure, studying with James Beard years ago in a class at Beard's brownstone, making every family meal an event. #1 Son and I thought up the menu, and he expanded it by including everything in the refrigerator that could possibly be a part of it.
After reading Michael Pollan's article in the NY Times Magazine (online version, I admit) and then hearing the interview with him on Fresh Air last week, I want to cook more. I want to be part of a movement to keep cooking alive! But wow! Really cooking things takes a lot of time. The big meals we cooked this week reminded me of cooking on holidays. They felt like Summer Festivals of Dinner!
When we played D&D the other night with the kids and Snowman's good friend, Underhill, I planned to cook, but Pure Luck suggested pizza instead. Why? Because if we cooked, the boys and I, he could see we would never get around to playing!
Chopping things takes time (unless you are working with Hubert Keller).
Cooking sauce instead of simply heating it takes time.
Yesterday we made pesto to serve on tortellini, as well as red sauce with vidalia onion and grape tomatoes and fresh basil to serve over linguini. #1 Son created a vegetable dish of rainbow chard and baby carrots and more vidalia, with chili powder and red pepper flakes. We bought the chicken sausage and a big crusty loaf, and we didn't even make dessert, but the whole thing took hours. We sat down to the meal as if finally going to a long-awaited party, and every bite tasted delicious.
Washing up takes a long time, too, when you have spun greens in the salad spinner and used the food processor and cooked in every pot you own and served the dishes family style at the table. I got a load into the dishwasher last night then came down to finish cleaning up this morning.
I was, you see, exhausted, and the young people had gone out to a concert.
Another load is washing now, and I washed all the knives by hand and returned them to the knife block. A few stray pot lids remain in the sink.
I loved cooking with them, and I think one of the factors Pollan didn't mention is that in the old slow-cooking days, when you had to catch the chicken and butcher it yourself before you could eat it, people cooked together. Life centered around the home. Most of the time more than one person helped prepare the meals, at all levels of society. Now, not only do people commute and work long hours outside our homes, which means we take and perhaps need short-cuts in our more solitary cooking, we seem to be losing the art of the family dinner. I'm not sure how to overcome this trend. LP and I, when we are the only two at home, will sit in front of whatever is on The Learning Channel and eat together. Our kitchen table functions as my home office, and the big dining room table feels, well, big for two people. We're cozier perched on the sofa.
I'd like to thing it's eating together that matters most, but I'm beginning to feel cooking together counts, too. I'm glad my sons both know how to cook and enjoy doing it. Now we just need to bring LP along, too. Maybe we need to hand her a knife and let her simply start chopping.