Last night’s dinner was brought to its happy eaters by creativity. Experience, as well. And a huge helping of why not try this? And now I’m wondering why that attitude doesn’t work for me in more venues…
I had great organic chicken — bought on a spur-of-the-moment visit to the brand-new Trader Joe’s (we are officially a cool city! we have a Trader Joe’s!). And I had about a cup of mixed olives & peppadew peppers. There’s always garlic — I bought several heads last time I went grocery shopping; who can live w/out garlic??. And all kinds of herbs & spices. Plus a new package of organic tagliatelle.
There you have it. The fixings for dinner. Braise the chicken w/ a sliced onion. Add a half head of garlic, peeled. A sprinkle of smoky paprika, lots of salt & fresh-ground pepper, and toss in the mixed olives & peppadews, Let it all cook in Grandma’s cast-iron skillet until the olives are soft & caramelised, and the chicken is fork-tender.
Now for what to serve with it. Get out the pasta you have (I just happened to have GREAT organic Italian tagliatelle, bronze die-cut, which is important, folkst: stuff sticks better to the rougher surface). Cook in a ton of boiling water, w/ salt & a bay leaf added. When it’s al dente, drain it and add a heaping handful of finely grated fresh Parmesan (another thing we always have to hand). A splash of half&half, and it becomes a quick&dirty version of fettuccini alfredo. Serve the chicken braise over the noodles, and listen to the happy eaters tell you how you rock!
So here’s what that all has to do w/beginner’s heart: WHY don’t I do that kind of happy improv in the rest of my life? Instead, I spent ONE ENTIRE HOUR yesterday obsessing over a sentence. And actually? Not even a complete sentence! A phrase! ‘Four mourners of’ vs ‘four mourners for.’ Seriously — I will go to my grave having lost an entire hour of my life futzing w/ that phrase. And why??
Because I don’t trust words? It’s not like I know less about writing thanI do about cooking, anyway. I’ve made a living writing — even teaching writing. NO ONE is going to pay me to cook for them, let me assure you. Even though I’m a great cook. As witnessed by the dinner I created from what I just happened to have around.
But my old writing mentor (I studied her work for years), M.F.K. Fisher (foodie writer extraordinaire) forecast this, saying that if you learn the basics of food — and have great basic ingredients to hand — you can always cook up something wonderful. It just takes beginning w/ the best of what you have.
My point? What if I learned to live my life more in line w/ what I have to hand — re: who I am, my innate traits & personality & assets, etc.? I didn’t try to make, oh, brisket and gnocchi for dinner. I didn’t have any brisket, and I haven’t a clue how to make gnocchi. So, why do I try to be things I’m not? Like…quieter. Less passionate (re: opinionated!). More…well, more like my mother, maybe? Who was so very good.
I don’t want to change myself, really. I just want to do the living equivalent of trusting myself like I do when I cook — not worrying so very much about the outcome, and living up to the best of who I am. Or, what I have to hand. The emotional, intellectual, spiritual equivalent of great Italian pasta, organic chicken, market fresh garlic, cream, good olive oil… You get the idea. What if I just let go of the idea I have to be perfect — that perfect meal, carefully created & plated — and just made something interesting out of what’s to hand? What if we all just lived the best life we’re capable of, given who we are? And stopped beating ourselves up because we’re not the Dalai Lama…? How’s that for a thought on beginner’s heart?