You know what never happens to me? Getting a message first thing in the morning saying that I can have the day off. That just never happens. This is the first time in 2 1/2 years that I received that message and then an email to confirm it. I played the message for Michael while we were in bed and he declared it a "snow day". I suddenly felt energized; I felt relaxed and free and completely unburdened.
The thought crossed my mind that maybe making buttermilk pie makes wishes come true. Maybe I set the wheels in motion Tuesday night as I rolled out the crust, beat the eggs and poured in the buttermilk; maybe I wasn't just making pie but bringing a wish to fruition, creating love and leisure. Maybe.
What followed was the most perfect day. I had my coffee and headed out to the bookstore. I've been hungry for new cookbooks. My current collection is meager and pitiful. Every time I look at them I want to clear my shelves and start fresh. I made a little list and went to see and feel the weight of the books. Looking at them online wouldn't do.
The bookstore has shelves and shelves of cookbooks. It gave me hope in a way that the Michael Pollan video that I watched a few days ago made me feel a little despair. Can you feel just a little despair? I don't know for sure, but I've been going back to that video in my head over and over again and the most indelible part of it wasn't the horror of the commercial food industry but a quote from Harry Balzer, a food marketing analyst. Michael Pollan relayed a conversation he had with Balzer who remarked that cooking, in another generation, will be regarded as quaintly as quilt-making is in ours.
This bit of dialogue would probably have faded from memory soon enough if I hadn't made a really simple spinach & tofu risotto the night before. I took a serving of it to work and shared with a co-worker. She asked how I made it. I told her it was really easy, you just chop half an onion and two cloves of garlic, sautee them in oil and a bit of butter for flavor. She stopped me and said, "I thought it was easy." Right then I knew there was a very real possibility that Mr. Balzer was right. Michael Pollan was right. There is a misconception out there that cooking is complicated and it has to be to be in order to be considered good cooking.
I wished that my co-worker would have been open to the rest of the recipe, open to adding a can of undrained diced tomatoes to the onions/garlic mixture and letting it all cook together for five minutes. How simple to throw in a bit of oregano, add two cups of cooked brown rice and half a block of tofu that's been whirred smooth in a blender beforehand along with a 10 oz of chopped spinach (frozen or fresh). Add half a cup of grated cheese, swiss or cheddar along with half a teaspoon of salt and a quarter teaspoon of pepper. Mix it all together. Let it cook down a few minutes more before popping it in the oven at 350° for about 30 minutes. Voila - dinner is served.
Yes, there is prep work. You do need to cook the brown rice, you do need to whir tofu in a blender but it's so satisfying and there is no way that a fast food joint can compete - not even with their iceberg lettuce salad. Maybe it's just a phase, but I've been consumed with cooking lately; consumed with simple cooking. I make one thing and want to make another and another. This is why I went in search of cookbooks yesterday.
Oh, the bounty. I was not disappointed. Here are a few titles on my list: