When my son (M'hijo) was about four months old I pasted the word "LAUGH" onto my kitchen wall, just to the left of the stove. You can see the first four letters of it here. Just ignore the monkey with her ridiculously-sized snickerdoodle in front.
M'hijo was having a daily cranky period just at about exactly the time when whatever I was making for supper was at the crucial moment.* I needed that word there to keep me sane when I had three pots going on the stovetop, one or sometimes two six-year-olds demanding that I find gluesticks and scissors, the phone ringing, the cat underfoot because she hasn't been fed in 36 hours, and above all, M'hijo crying to be picked up.
Other mothers have commented that "LAUGH" isn't quite the right word for this situation. They thought "HOWL" would be more appropriate. But LAUGH works for me. It helps me keep my cool.
But there is one day a week when I get the luxury of cooking in an empty kitchen. The cat may be there, but no humans are. This is Sundays at four, when Tobias takes the kids to visit his grandmother and I make our Sunday dinner. Ah sweet Sunday, when I can open and close the oven as much as I want, without worrying that anyone is going to try to get into it. Wonderful Sunday, when the floor of the kitchen isn't covered with the entire contents of the tupperware cupboard. Beautiful Sunday, when I can focus all my attention on peeling potatoes, and if I have any attention leftover, I can always listen to Wiretap.
Sometimes, however, a cook needs to take a moment away from the stove altogether. Yesterday, when Tobias took the children away, the first thing I did was pop the chicken in the oven, and the second thing I did was make a cup of coffee and slice a piece of chocolate bundt cake. And the third thing I did was crack open my brand-new copy of Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen for the very first time.
"I find that a book -- the object itself, the weight in your hands, the presence on your bedside table -- has a personality and charm that a Web site can never hope to achieve. It's hard to take a Web site in the kitchen with you, or curl up with it on the couch, a mug of tea by your side and the cat on your lap"
Too true, and her new book is exactly the right kind for all of these activities. Small, colourful, full of amazing photos and lovely anecdotes, I could get a lot of enjoyment out of this cookbook even if I never made any of the recipes.
But of course that's not going to happen. I plan to start experimenting with the recipes in C & Z this weekend.
So I guess I squandered my cooking alone time a bit this week, sitting at my dining room table sipping coffee and imagining myself childfree, living in Montmartre. And let me tell you I paid for it, when M'hijo returned, demanding that I play trucks with him just as I was beginning to chop the carrots. So maybe next Sunday I'll chop and prep everything first, then take my cook's repose.
*In retrospect, I wish I'd taken a cooking holiday during his infancy. I really felt like it was important to keep the nightly family dinners going in the same way as usual, and not resort to takeout more than strictly necessary, but now I see that was a mistake.