Friday, May 16, 2014

man + fire + food = fulfilled

I am taking a moment today to acknowledge a subject I've hinted at but never really stated outright: I suffer from depression and generalized anxiety. Today is the second day in what seems like months, that I did not feel like every cell of my body was filled with led. When just getting out of bed, and putting one foot in front of the other is literally all the energy I can manage, and life is reduced to a series of Herculean tasks such as shower, get dressed, eat. This is not mental, it is physiological.

I mention this in context of this blog, not to garner sympathy, but as an illustrative paradigm. Food, and specifically cooking, is the rope I rely on to pull myself out of the mire. It helps me feel connected to the earth, life and death, in a very tangible - primal - way. It requires of me enough concentration and care to pull myself out of my head, and it facilitates connection to the people closest to me when I have forgotten how to do this for myself.

Even when the distance between us is only the diameter of the table, everyone can feel miles away when I am depressed. But, if I'm cooking something that tugs at my memories of growing up, my mother's unbanked macaroni and cheese for instance, then even people that are hundreds of miles away, can be brought into the immediate. I can even conjure people who came before me, but who's presence I can feel. When I am making a recipe that belonged to my great grandmother, I can, not just copy but, recreate her experience of eating this cookie, or that casserole.

The past couple of weeks however, I have struggled to do even the simplest of cooking. Falling back on what are some of my worst habits: skipping breakfast, buying lunch, and sometimes also buying dinner. Feeding the depression excesses of sugar, fat, and salt, surrendering to the ease and convenience of fast food, and letting myself feel powerless to lift a spoon, even when I know it is the only way I can dig myself out of the pit I've once again fallen into. I deliberately do not feed my body - and my soul - what it really needs: whole, real, simple food cooked by my own hands.

So, it's back to the stove for me, and back to basics. Go to bed on time, get up at a regular time, eat good food that nourishes my body, and exercise. Write something, every, single, day.

Dinner tonight was pasta with pancetta, peas, and cream: not any more complicated that boiling water and tossing ingredients into a frying pan, but ultimately better than anything that has ever been served at Olive Garden. Later, I'm making sautéed mushrooms with garlic, thyme, and olive oil on thick slabs of toasted Zingerman's country bread.

I have two baking projects planned for tomorrow: Lemon Poppyseed Muffins, and Rhubarb Streusel Muffins. I am also planning to make a Roasted Tomato Soup, and two different mushroom soups later this week, both due to the local mega mart (Meijers) having mushrooms and tomatoes on sale $10.00 for 10. And, for any obligate carnivores reading this, I'll be inaugurating my in-laws new grill with a batch of venison burgers.

I am hoping to fill the week gap between semesters with a little pot stirring, and freezer filling, and may have travel plans for the long May weekend that involve feeding 6 - 8 at my sister-in-law's cabin. Being busy is best for me, even when it doesn't feel like it: I know that much is true.

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