Monday, December 06, 2010

Making Food

It's December and I'm taking part in #reverb10. It's a daily prompt for the month of December that invites you to reflect on the past year and think about the year to come. I like that kind of thing at this time of the year and it's helping me complete another side project which is 750 words a day. I've completed every one, but haven't been posting my responses anywhere - the internet does not need a complete record of my personal neuroses. I'm just not that big a sharer.

So why are you reading this now? Because the prompt for today was this: Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

It got me thinking about cooking, specifically making fresh pasta. Fresh pasta on Saturday night was the last thing I made. I took two cooking classes last week. French Classics Cooking (so much butter! so much double cream!) and Fresh Pasta making. I've been making pasta for years but I've never been particularly good at it and I figured I had a voucher, why not use it to learn and improve a skill and actually use the equipment I own. A few tricks, a bit of chefly guidance and I'm feeling pretty confident about my pasta making abilities.

So I made some for dinner on Saturday night before we went out to the Soho Theatre to see Asher Treleaven. So funny.

While I was mixing the flour and eggs, kneading pulling punching pushing, I was thinking about craft and the art of making things by hand. Later, as I rolled it through the machine (so much easier now!) and cut the tagliatelle, hung it up on my makeshift drying racks and carefully separated the individual noodles, I felt like I was doing something. Like I was participating in a craft that had ancient roots and a tradition and history that I was part of by making my dinner. There's something really powerful in building something with your very own hands.

I think often about the process of cooking and baking. There's a great quote about how when you cook, you never cook alone because you take into the kitchen with you generations of cooks whose experience and trials and love is passed down and through every time you make something. You eat every day so you forget how special cooking actually is. Not just from the love that hopefully goes into your food but also the knowledge behind it. How long did it take to perfect the process that makes snails not only edible but a delicious delicacy? How many upset stomaches were there from eating the wrong mushroom? Or broken teeth from biting into a raw quince?

When I make something like pasta is feels like I'm doing something. I like dishes that require care and constant stirring supervision. Or complicated breads and baking that I can delve into and lose myself in. It feels creative and like a craft.

The last question of today's prompt asks if there is something you want to make, but need to clear time for. I look over at my cookbook shelf, with the post-its and bits of paper sticking out and there are at least a hundred things I want to make. Some will be quick after work dinners, others will require a full day immersed in the kitchen. I'm fortunate that the things I love to make are usually useful delicious things that bring something to others and form an important part of my daily world.

Are there particular dishes or meals that make you feel like you've accomplished something important? Something you make often? Or an occasional burst of kitchen creativity and energy?

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