Fall Food

Cooking in the Age of Anxiety


Rome might very well be burning. 

There is no denying the smell of smoke in the air and a horizon that looks so much darker than it did a just a few weeks ago. 
I have spent my days out of focus and a bit out of my mind.  

And yet, cooking up a storm. 
Chopping has become meditation as I let my hands move slivers of onions, chunky shards of carrots and granules of garlic into tidy piles. I keep my knife moving back and forth across a mound of parsley until it turns emerald green beneath the blade as its grassy scent rises.  And think of nothing as I slice translucent half-moons of red onions for a quick tart pickle.  How satisfying to watch mushrooms roast in a fond of sautéed chicken or listen to the sizzle of  oxtails caramelize in a cast iron roasting pan for a red wine braise.  How lovely to feel kale soften beneath my olive oil rubbed fingertips, to build the flavors of a meaty soup whose aroma fills even the basement.  

The making of things has become the one reliable way to unhook my brain from the near constant ticker of bad news, from apprehension about the days to come.  To give my body a task it can complete today, to accomplish something that sustains instead of destroys.

In times like these, we should all become bakers of bread.  There is nothing more therapeutic, more calming, more life affirming than the kneading of dough. 

My post-election advice?  Turn off you phone, your Facebook feed, your television.  Reach for the most comforting recipe you know and devote a few hours to it. Pour a glass of wine. Put on Mozart. And then give the ingredients your full attention.  Let your body do what perhaps your mind cannot:  softly focus.  Engage your senses.  Smell and taste—yes, but notice, touch, listen. Let the moment wash over you. Breathe. Imagine someone you love, read a favorite poem.  Let these small lights guide you. 

The truth is food does so much more than fuel bodies.  It sustains, comforts, calms, invigorates and binds. Its memories are fertile soil, its rituals—our roots.  Always practice the small things in times of uncertainty.   And do not despair.  

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