Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dealing with Dinner (in the Name of Art)

I have a deeply vexed relationship with food preparation.  I enjoy it - oddly, never more than when it is as stupidly complex and demanding as the American tax code- but I also hate it, if only because it always interrupts me in the middle of something I want to finish.  Like . . . a canvas.  Or a salt shaker.  Or a crocheted serial killer.  OR ANYTHING AT ALL.

Now that I say that, maybe I don't have a food preparation problem; maybe I have an interruption problem.

At any rate, this week, I am trying something new.  To satisfy my love for the stupidly hard and ridiculous, I am making the following this week, all from scratch:

  • Chilaquile Casserole with Southwestern Black Bean Salad and fruit salad
  • Golden Pear Soup, Country Bread, cheese, and Roasted Green Beans with Onions and Garlic
  • Black Bean Chili, salsa, and Banana and Cheese Empanadas
  • Mexican Potatoes with Oaxaca Bean Salad
  • Tofu and Sweet Potato Stir Fry with Javanase Vegetable Salad
To accomplish this feat, I am working on meals two and three days in advance, a bit at a time.  Yesterday, I soaked and cooked beans for the Southwestern Black Bean Salad, and then I made dough for the empanadas.

Today, I made the Southwestern Black Bean Salad, and I am soaking and boiling beans for the Black Bean Chili.  Oh, and the Country Bread Dough is rising on the counter.

This salad looks even more beautiful after the cilantro and parsley are added - but please, judge it on its inner beauty.

Rise up, Country Bread Dough!  Fight the system!

To finish things up, I am about to make the Chilaquile.  And the Pear Soup.  Both.  Wait until my sous chef (aka my son) finds out. He'll be endlessly thrilled.

I am hoping that all of this daily work will help me accept that food preparation is just a part of life, dammit, which no amount of whining, hiding, resentment, pouting, or bargaining will change.

I am also hoping that by planning ahead, I will really appreciate and savor the rest of the day when I am not cooking, when I can sit at my table and create.  Because that is precious time!

I did have a moment of panic today, by the way - which is a great sign, on Day 2.  I thought, "I AM MAKING TOO MANY THINGS!  I CANNOT POSSIBLY DO THIS!"  Then I laughed, though, because seriously?!  I can do whatever it is I ask of myself.  If I ask a lot, I will get a lot.

Here's to a new experiment, and here's to delivering what I demand!  Let's hope it's all a great success, because I have one million things I want to make, and I don't mean in the kitchen!

P.S. When I went to cut the slits for the second rise, I almost cut through the loaf on the left.  Now I feel like the extra asshole-y killer on [insert crime show] who is so violent that he almost severs the spine. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mixed Media for My Grandmother

This is a companion entry for my Living with Art piece from March 7, 2014 on

On Wednesday night, I stayed up very late working on a mixed media piece honoring my grandmother.  Going in, I thought that the piece would come together almost spontaneously in a rush of love and nostalgia.  In retrospect, how ridiculous am I?  Who could fit 35 years of memories into a 4x6 space without some serious artistic agonizing?!  Sheesh!

First, a couple of my favorite stories, in brief:

My grandmother started out as a teacher.  She and my grandfather had to delay their marriage by a full decade, in fact, because married women could not hold teaching jobs, and my grandparents could not afford to be married at the time on one income.

Grammy & Papa at a costume party, 1938

While she was teaching, my grandmother also had to keep up appearances, which means that she had to sneak down to the basement to smoke cigarettes with the lights off.  (She didn't inhale, mind you - not then, and not ever, which I find totally endearing.)

On their wedding day, after all that time waiting, my grandparents got into a fight and didn't speak from the time of the ceremony until they arrived at the hotel for the first night of their honeymoon.  Their marriage proved far happier than that long, silent drive and lasted until my grandfather's death, by which time, they had three children, six grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.

I was going to use that picture of my grandmother up there for my mixed media piece, by the way, but she didn't wear her hair like that; she wore it in a French twist, like Kim Novak in Vertigo.  After she could no longer lift her arms to do her hair herself, I remember lying on her bed, watching my mother do it for her.

So in the end, I couldn't pick that picture of my grandmother - or any one picture, because all of the pictures exist simultaneously in my head.  Instead, I painted her.  I gave her the clip-on earrings and pretty necklaces she always wore, because she was always put together.  (When my mother was growing up, my grandmother would change her dress before my grandfather returned home from work, and she would sit in her chair and wait for him, sipping a Manhattan.  My mother and my aunts all know that was my grandmother's private moment, sipping her Manhattan.  That was the reason I chose the amber color: It reminds me of her drink.)

I also included her favorite flowers, azaleas, and eggs in a nest, for her love of birds.  The number 19 is the number of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren, all here on the earth because of her.

Last, a word about breakfast. My grandmother got up early, and as a child, so did I.  I'd always find her in the kitchen, watching the birds, drinking orange juice.  She'd tell me to have "some breakfast food," by which she meant cereal.  She herself wouldn't eat until my grandfather got up.  I'd eat my cereal and watch her arrange her pills, which seemed magical to me: Tiny pills, some white, some blue and shiny.  I never knew why she took those pills.  Now I have a pill box just like hers.