A Homemade Life

As you may have noticed, I’ve not asked any controversial questions recently.  I know.  What is up with you these days, Elissa?  Well, I’ve been hashing away major life quandaries in my recent novel, and the exhaustion this causes has led me to more relaxing and mind-not-required things on my off hours.

Today, I’ve pulled this book off my library loan shelf–those books I’ve checked out of the library, for special times such as these.  [I try to check out a book first, then buy, if I fall in love with it.  That’s how I operate.  I like to know what I’m getting.]  A Homemade Life is written by Molly Wizenberg, the creator of the blog Orangette, which by the way, is a spectacular cooking site.

She began the blog in 2004 after realizing that she loved cooking, and indeed, that her kitchen was the central place in her house.

Here’s the fab story she begins with in her Introduction:

“It started when I was a freshman in high school.  We’d be sitting at the kitchen table, the three of us, eating dinner, when my father would lift his head from his plate and say it: “You know, we eat better at home than most people do in restaurants.”  Sometimes, for good measure, he’d slap the table and let loose a long ooooh of contentment.  It didn’t seem to matter what we were eating.  It could have been some sliced tomatoes, or a bowl of mashed potatoes, or some fish that he’d fried in a pat of butter.  At least every couple of weeks, he said it.  To me, it sounded like tacky bragging, the kind of proud exaggeration that fathers specialize in….

“But now I’m old enough to admit that he was right.  It’s not that we knew how to cook especially well, or that we always ate food that was particularly good….What was so satisfying, I think, was something else.  It was the steady rhythm of meeting in the kitchen every night, sitting down at the table, and sharing a meal.  Dinner didn’t come through a swinging door, balanced on the arm of an anonymous waiter: it was something that we made together.  We built our family that way–in the kitchen, seven nights a week.  We built a life for ourselves, together around that table.  And although I couldn’t admit it then, my father was showing me, in his pleasure and in his pride, how to live it: wholly, hungrily, loudly.”

The book is chockfull of stories and recipes.  It’s a joy just to sit here and browse through them all.  It’s enough to make me want to jump up and buy all the ingredients and dive into the making of a feast.  You’re all invited if you don’t mind being guinea pigs.  This book is so going into my stack of go-to cookbooks.  LOVE it.

Speaking of those wonderful moments centered around eating, we’re having friends over on Friday night–sort of an outdoor bonfire cookout, where the kids can run, and we adults can sit around, cracking peanuts, preventing hot dogs from sliding off metal coat hangers, and rescuing a burned finger or two from scorched marshmallows.

I’ve collected my recipes and made my shopping list.  Last night, I was telling Dan what he had to look forward to two nights from now.  His first statement?  “I thought you were going to keep it simple.”  Well, yes, I meant to, but then I got to thinking if I don’t do these things now, when will I ever?  So, the menu on Friday night comes from Smitten Kitchen, which is a site I had to introduce to you at some point.  In no certain order, we’re having Chicken Skewers with a Garlic-Mustard Glaze; Marinated Steaks (with my mom’s best marinade); a Tomato Salad (which is only on Smitten Kitchen’s Flickr group; Dilled Potato and Pickled Cucumber Salad; Bretzel Rolls; plain old hot dogs, of course, for the kids, should they shirk from the grander fare; and for dessert, Dulce de Leche Ice Cream on Brownie Cookies; oh, and don’t forget the kid-favorite–s’mores.

I think we shall enjoy our friends…and the food…and maybe utter that long ooooh of contentment.  Anticipation is half the fun.

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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