Manual process

The third verse in a Norah Jones song goes like this: I put food on the table/ And a roof overhead/ But I’d trade it all tomorrow/ For the highway instead/ Watch your back I should tell you/ Love’s the only thing I only knew/ One’s thing for sure pretty baby I always take the long way home. Every day when I leave work, I can’t just go home. It’s too early to stay there until sleep! Even when I don’t have somewhere to go or people to meet, I will loiter or linger somewhere, anywhere, before deciding it is time to start dinner. You see, I’m restless. One of those people who can’t hide away in a resort for two whole weeks doing nothing but watch the chlorine in the pool. Can we do something? Go somewhere? Try something new? In fact, two weeks of holiday suffices just fine. Not that I can’t appreciate a break, but I’m a worker, to put it one way.

This realization comes to me a little too late though, when I am at the burnt end of the candle that should’ve been extinguished an hour ago. Even now, at 11pm when my eyes are telling me to shut it off, I want to do one more thing. Today, it’s writing on this blog. Yesterday, it was watching another episode of Pushing Daisies. Of course the answer is simple — just stop sooner! I’ve been thinking of self discipline and where it’s been this whole summer. Self-discipline? Present. Whoops, that may have been my conscience speaking up for its friend.

The other reason why I get the burnt-wicker feeling at the end of a night, even if I haven’t gone out, is that I take my time making dinner. Today, I found a recipe for eggs mimosa and set about making it, five boiled eggs at a time. An hour later, I was almost done and just adding the parsley on top of the bubbling dish. Two hours later, I was taking the garbage out to the curb, only to realize that garbage day just past and ours were the only bins on the street. Turn around, wheel those smelly suckers back to the house. By the time I had dinner, cleaned up, made lunch for tomorrow, it was probably three hours after I started in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook and like my sister says, you can’t rush me. But sometimes that means I do take the long way home. I can complicate things that others would have simple solutions for. I’ll insist on the director’s commentary when people just want to see the hero get blown up.

I like the cool touch of a hard-boiled egg shell, and getting to the gelatinous body one fracture at a time.

I like to disintegrate the dry Parmesan knob in my hand into a fine powder, back and forth on the steel grater.

I like having the faint smell of fresh parsley in my fingers after tearing pieces onto the dish, and even the eager shot of steam that rises from the pot when I lift the lid to add them in.

Part of the fun in cooking is the sensory details that’s in the production!

So here’s the question about slow food. Quality and efficiency. Both Japanese emblems that are secret ingredients for a great product. How do you get one without compromising the other? What does self discipline have to do with hitting that balance?

My sister as well, might pip in on that one. This chicken pizza in the photo is one we made when I was visiting her in London, Ontario and was an afterthought when we decided we’d dine in after all. It was made possible with a smearing from a great vat of pesto she made beforehand and stored away like a dutiful squirrel. Efficiency means saving time, and time can be saved when you make lots and save it for later. Like her pesto, which we put on top of pita bread and topped with mozzarella cheese, red peppers and spicy cooked chicken. My sister, Tiffany, is her name, is also the opposite of the manual process. She is about automatic, about immediate results, and getting it right faster. We’re like ying and yang in many ways, and our styles mesh well when we’re in the kitchen together too. I like to chop up vegetables, she likes transform them from raw to plate-able in a flash pan. I like to plate and arrange, she will make sure everything’s out while it’s still hot. Somehow, together, dinner will be served.

What about you? How slow, fast or aware are you from the time the raw ingredients leave the fridge, to the time we’re peering over it cooked with fork and knife in hand?

Chicken pesto pita pizza recipe (Automatic version)

  • Pita
  • Pesto (store-bought for the automatic cook, or handmade with a recipe like this for the manual cooks)
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • Cooked chicken, chopped
  • Mozzarella, shredded
  • Set the oven onto the broil setting.
  • Spread pesto onto one side of a whole pita.
  • Fry red peppers in the meantime, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Assemble the cheese, peppers, and chicken in whichever order you wish them to appear on your pizza.
  • Broil pita pizzas in oven for 10-13 min, until the pita is warmed or toasted to your liking.

2 Responses to “Manual process”

  1. That photo is so strikingly fantastic! It’s good to always push yourself one further, at the very least it means you sleep easier! I like slow food done quickly, by that I mean I whip around getting it prepared, but still enjoy one pot slowly cooked meals. The flavour is always better!

  2. Thank you kindly!
    And you’re totally right about being able to sleep easier after you’d done what you wanted to do before day’s end: make a good meal and write about it.
    My friend used to say sleep is for the dead, and while I can’t agree a hundred percent with her, I get the carpe diem in it ;-)

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