I cooked taco soup, chicken enchiladas, and shrimp curry in one sitting yesterday, and felt like I had just experienced a spa treatment.
Normally, I am doing the following when preparing a meal:
get ingredients-tell Owen to give Joel his toy back-turn on frying pan-tell Owen to give Joel his toy back RIGHT NOW-pour oil in frying pan-start chopping onions-pick up outraged, crying baby-pat back gently as he wiggles back and forth-put baby down-tell Owen that yes, despite all hopes to the contrary, he still needs to flush the toilet and wash his hands after going to the bathroom-continue to chop onion while hoping that I don't start a grease fire-pick up Joel again-open dishwasher so he can play with the silverware and ceramic plates-tell Owen to put his pants back on because nobody wants to see his pee-pee-put onions into bubbling hot oil and stir-take butter knife away from Joel and plop him the high chair with Cheerios-answer phone and listen to Paul tell me that the bridge is backed up and he'll hopefully be home in forty five minutes-silently scream in the bathroom-tell Owen that SO HELP ME GOD if he does not put his pants on he will go to bed RIGHT NOW-cut chicken-wash hands to give Owen chocolate milk-cut chicken-wash hands to give Joel dried strawberries-cut chicken-wash hands to clean up spilled chocolate milk-put chicken in the now glistening, soft onions,-wash hands-cook chicken-help Owen put his pants on (yes, I gave my child chocolate milk while we was naked from the waist down. And yes, I didn't follow through on my threat. Judge away!)-test doneness of chicken because I am a PARANOID LOON-add frozen vegetables and stir fry sauce--spoon feed Joel something vile and pureed--stir dinner-let Owen eat the leftover Cheerios underneath Joel's high chair-pour glass of wine-answer phone and tell my dear mother NO THIS IS NOT A GOOD TIME TO TALK--stare out the front window, willing Paul's car to appear--take stir-fry off the stove--realize that I should have started rice ages ago-decide we're going Atkins, so no rice for us--watch the boys do dances of joy as Paul comes home---listen to him explain that he has to mow the lawn, so he'll help out with the boys afterwards--go in the bedroom and rock back and forth in the fetal position--find glass of wine two hours later, having forgotten its existence.
That's a typical night.
So, yesterday, when I chopped, simmered, and roasted these meals, without my children, in my sister-in-law's spacious kitchen, I rediscovered my inner cook--the person who takes the time to painstakingly remove each seed from the chipoltle chilies, and tastes sauces for the appropriate balance of sweet and savory. My sister-in-law and I talked easily as I cooked (my gift to her--they are to freeze and eat later, after her daughter is born). We discussed family, parenting, labor, and love, as my hands did their purposeful busywork.
The gift was for her, but it was for me as well. She got the food; I got to focus on one task. It was almost like a meditation, and it was scrumptious.