Finding pleasure in the kitchen
Whether it’s sipping the first cup of coffee in a special mug or chopping green onions fresh from the garden, mindfulness enhances day-to-day culinary activities
We are into the second half of 2017.
One of my resolutions, back in January, was to be more present this year. By being present I mean paying attention to what is going on at any given moment rather than letting my thoughts wander to something that’s going to happen later or reviewing things that went on earlier.
My goal is to notice and appreciate the moments of life, good or bad, as they occur. This doesn’t mean that I can’t look back to reflect on what went on or what I did and it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t plan for the future.
It does mean that I prefer neither to stew about how things might have been different or live in anticipation of some perfect imaginary future or in dread of an apocalyptic one, while missing out on what’s going on here and now.
I suppose there aren’t many truly new ideas. This is one that’s been around for centuries, and I don’t know enough about philosophy to trace its origins. It can intensify experience, good or bad.
One of the benefits is finding pleasure in the everyday events and observations that fill the months and years. I have noticed some fine moments. And because I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, many of them are related to preparing and consuming food.
The first taste of coffee in the morning, steamy and delicious, is one worth noticing and I enjoy it more when I like the mug it’s in: Island pottery in soft green and creamy white, with slightly rough ridges, or white china decorated with lilies of the valley or tall and turquoise, a gift from my daughter’s Cape Breton vacation.
There is the delight in the fresh perfection of the first green onions from our garden, pulled and put to use less than 5 minutes later. No bruising, no wilting, no discolouration, these are at their peak and deserve to be appreciated.
A perfect setting enhances a meal. Sitting in the warmth radiating from a woodstove when the snow is blowing horizontally on the other side of the window makes a simple bowl of soup all the more enjoyable. On a warm summer day, a salad and sandwich on the deck is a treat, made better by garden bright colours, an easy breeze, a bird’s song and water gurgling in my husband’s latest back yard pond.
At the DiverseCity Multicultural Festival a few weeks ago, it made me happy to realize that, in spite of using knife and fork for my daily meals, I could still manage quite well with chopsticks.
These, and other small pleasures, like a centerpiece of fresh flowers, a perfectly poached egg, dinner with old friends from a long-ago workplace and an ice cream cone on a hot afternoon are moments in my life that I don’t want to miss.
A dessert I enjoy in early July is strawberry shortcake, light biscuit drenched in red juice from crushed berries, topped with real whipped cream. I doctored up my mom’s recipe last week, and think the buttermilk makes it even better. Here’s the recipe.
500 mL all purpose flour, 2 C
10 mL baking power, 2 tsp
2 mL baking soda, ½ tsp
25 mL sugar, 2 tbsp
100 mL butter, 6 tbsp
1 egg, well-beaten
175 mL buttermilk, ¾ cup
Sliced almonds, pumpkin seeds, or any chopped nuts for topping
Preheat oven to 220 degrees C (425 degrees F). Lightly grease a 22 cm (8 inch) pie plate. Whisk together flour, baking powder and soda and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or two knives.
Whisk the beaten egg into the buttermilk and stir into the flour-butter mixture with a fork, mixing until soft dough is formed. Spoon the dough into prepared pie plate, and pat into place.
Scatter a crisp topping over the surface. I used pepitas (pumpkin seeds) last time, but just about any nuts or seeds are good. Or brush surface with egg white or milk if you don’t want the crunch. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through. Serve wedges, warm from the oven, with sweetened strawberries, or any other juicy fruit or berries.