The Luxury of Taking Your Time

walnut

Image by Erich Ferdinand, via Flickr

Last week I peeled walnuts. I sat down with a sharpened skewer and a bowl of walnuts, doused in boiling water.  I slowly, methodically, lifeted the sheer skins off the nut, scraping each surface, excavating each tiny canyon.

Most of my days are measured by time.  I wake (too early) to the alarm, then it’s rush all day long to meet one deadline after another – beat the traffic, get to school by the first bell, get to work on time, get to daycare before it closed, get the children fed and bathed and in bed by a reasonable hour, and then squeeze in whatever leisure I can before I must go to bed, too, in order to have the energy to tackle the next day.

Meals, too, are hurried affairs.  What breakfast can be eaten in the car?  Do I have time to pack lunch or is it cafeteria day again?  How quickly can I get dinner on the table?  Do the grownups get to eat before 9 pm?  What I’m primarily looking for in a recipe is some combination of efficiency, taste and health – I don’t have time for precision or technique.

But occasionally, I will be able to steal an hour to sit down and peel walnuts.

I was making chiles en nogada – a Pueblan dish of stuffed chiles topped with a creamy walnut sauce and pomegranates.  We had guests visiting from out of town, and I wanted to make something special.  The recipes I found warned that the walnut peels added a bitterness to the sauce, and so I sat down, ignoring the piles of laundry, the dishes in the sink, the emails to be answered, and I lifted the skins off those walnuts with a pointed skewer, bit by bit, seeking, as I did so, the touch of the sublime.

There is joy in this kind of work, if you can find it.  If you can leave behind the deadlines for some time and work with your hands at a tedious task that will take your finished product one step closer to perfection.  If you can inhabit your task, thinking only of what is in front of you – not today’s crises, or tomorrow’s challenges, but only this – the walnuts, the skewer, the bowl of creamy nuts, stripped of their protective skin.

This is why I love to cook, and the type of cooking I love to do – to take the time to make something, to take the extra time to make it well, to make it right.  Not every meal is like this.  Heck, not one in ten meals is like this.  But if it weren’t for these meals – these meals prepared without the pressures of the world – I couldn’t make the others – the dinners on the table in ten, the breakfasts on the go, the brown bag lunches.    There have been a slew of articles lately about people who hate cooking – the drudgery of it.  I get it! I do!  Getting meals on the table can be a real slog.   I value shortcuts – and I share them with you here – because I need shortcuts.  I need the tips and the tricks to keep the domestic front from losing us the war.  And that’s why a lot of the recipes I post here on The Domestic Front are just that – recipes that help you get meals on the table, even when it’s a chore (and by you I mean men and women.  I’m not trying to tie women to the kitchen.  But we need to eat, and our kids (if we have them) need to eat, and there is value in eating good, home-cooked food, in a culture of cooking, and of developing skills and self-reliance.

But if the only cooking you ever get to do is the kind you have to do, it will always feel like a slog. It will be hard and hateful.  But if just sometimes you can take the time, have the luxury to cook something because you want to, not because you need to, take the time to make it just a little better without bringing down the whole operation, find your groove in a quiet kitchen – that’s where the good stuff is.

I didn’t peel all the walnuts.  I decided, after an hour or so, with my fingers pruned and my shoulders hunched, that I would prefer bitterness in the sauce to bitterness in my soul if I continued.  It was delicious anyway.  The point is in the process.

Summer Recipe Roundup

IMG_4890

It’s the summer solstice! The longest day of the year! The official first day of summer, which, by some magic, is also Midsummer. No matter how you slice it, today is the day when even your most pedantic friends can’t deny that summertime is here, and with it, summer cooking. We’ve already been going crazy with the stone fruit in our house (my children are fruit bats, and I keep finding half-gnawed nectarines in the oddest places) and last week I broke out the first official BLT.

Here’s a list of great The Domestic Front recipes to get you in the mood for cooking this summer!

Continue reading Summer Recipe Roundup

Trader Joe’s Cheap Wine Pick: Espiral Vinho Verde

 

 

Summertime!  And the living is easy!  And the drinking should be, too.    This Trader Joe’s Cheap Wine Pick is one of my favorites, and has been a staple of my summertime tippling for several years.
Espiral Vinho Verde

 

Wine: Espiral Vinho Verde
Region: Portugal
Style: Crisp, refreshing white with effervescence
Price:  $4.49 a bottle

 I first discovered Vinho Verde when I lived in New York, and it was one of my favorite wines for a New York summer.  Nothing cut through those muggy days like a nice cold glass of vinho verde – super crisp and refreshing, with d just a few bubbles.  When I moved back to LA,  I was thrilled to find this great (cheap!) Trader Joe’s Vinho Verde for only $3.99! (Though I think the price has gone up this year to $4.49).   Vinho verde originates in Portugal, and refers to a region and a style rather than a specific grape.   Vinho verde wines are made with very young grapes (hence the nice acidity you will find in most vinho verdes) and have a slight sparkle to them (that wikipedia tells me originally came from malolactic fermentation, but is now usually a result of artificial carbonation.)    It’s low in alcohol – the Espiral Vinho Verde is only 9% ABV – so it’s great to drink in hot weather without getting that sticky feeling you can get from too much of the hard stuff, and  it’s a nice mixer for some of the lighter summer wine-based aperitifs, like a kir.    It’s nice citrusy flavors pair well with a lot of summer food – fish, grilled chicken, tomatoes, pesto, pasta.    This Trader Joe’s Vinho Verde is eminently quaffable!

Friday Five: Links to Love, Summer Vacation Edition

Zucchini Blossoms
It’s after Memorial day, the Nuni has finished first grade (!) and summer vacation is in full swing around these parts.  I am kicking off the summer by breaking my pinky toe and going slowly insane because my children are whining.  You?

 

1. From the archives:  

I don’t know about you, but our zucchini plant is growing like crazy.  Instead of drowning under a bushel of zucchini come July, pick them while they’re tiny and make these fried zucchini blossoms.

2.  Fashion Find:

I bought two pairs of these shoes and they are super cute and super comfortable.  Yes, they are made of pleather, and yes, they will probably fall to pieces after about 3 months but for $23, what do you expect?  Red shoes!

3.  Let’s Get Serious for a Minute

I don’t know if you’ve been following the #YesAllWomen movement, but in the wake of the Isla Vista shooting and the misogynistic hate screed that accompanied it, women are stepping forward to tell their stories.  It’s both depressing (so much to be done!) and inspiring (women having a voice!)  It’s worth checking out the feed, and if you have something to add, posting.

4.  Best of the Blogs:

My friend Rachel Cedar runs a very successful parenting consulting business in New York. In February, she ran a great series with a bunch of talented writers on playing with your kids, called 28 Days of Play.  With the long days of summer vacation looming, the series is worth revisiting.  (Rachel is also a go-to for very sage parenting advice, so check out the rest of her blog, too).

5.  Funny of the day:

Mindy Kaling gave a commencement address at Harvard Law School and knocked it out of the park.   This pushes so many of my buttons:  Mindy Kaling (love her), lawyer jokes (funny because they’re true!, but I’m only allowed to say that because I’m a lawyer) and just a touch of anti-Harvard bias (go Bulldogs!).  So many good quotes, but I particularly love this one:
You wrote the Terms and Conditions that I scroll through quickly while I download the update for Candy Crush. Terms and Conditions are the only things keeping us from the purge, everybody. I don’t read them—I just hit Accept. iTunes may own my ovaries for all I know.”    (OK, this might only be funny to corporate lawyers)

 

Bonus #1:  Literary Endeavor

I have been enjoying the heck out of the Toast, and this made me chuckle.  How to Tell if You’re in a Jane Austen Novel

Have a great weekend!

XOXO, Kate