Thursday, November 29, 2007


I just spent 24 minutes chopping 1.5 cups of walnuts and pecans. They are for the Mexican wedding cakes, or polvorones, that I'm making as thanks to a collection of friends and colleagues who are writing letters of recommendation for me.

I bake a lot. I treat it like research. I take pictures of the food I make. I keep a journal and photo diary of what I made, so I can remember what worked and what didn't.

I bake a lot: so much, that one might be suprised that I don't have a food processor. What is 24 minutes of chopping with a 5" Wustof Classic serrated knife versus 20 seconds of pulsing?

The cookies don't taste better. These mexican wedding cakes would probably offer a more "melt-in-your-mouth" experience if it weren't for the random chinks walnut my knife didn't cleanly slice.

And certainly, it's not because I'm stingy with my equipment. Sure, I have a second-hand coffee table bought from a garage sale for $10. The bookshelf was $30. The oddball collection of chairs littering my house are from City Liquidators; they amount to less than $5 a chair. I even have a second-hand dog. But my 8 year old Chantal stockpot was $125. The matching saucepan was $80. And my good friends give me great kitchen gifts. I have a lovely heavy duty wooden spatula from Moira, a beautiful Chef's knife from the boyfriend, a Le Creuset dutch oven that my friend R. claims was "really on sale," and my mother has given me every one of my mixing bowls.

What then?

I'll tell you.


Ritual for me. Much of my "old life" has been deferred or abandoned since coming to graduate school: making pop-up Christmas cards, hiking, inhaling art, gardening, feeling confident. Spending 24 minutes chopping nuts is a small bit of leisurely time that I get to reclaim. It is a quiet rebellion taking place in my yellow kitchen with the ugly floor.

And ritual for them. This small army of people has dedicated a lot of time telling a group of strangers nice things about me. Their time must be repaid with my time: 24 minutes of chopping nuts.


RHCD said...

I so get this. Not in the omg way your life has gone topsy turvey but I get it. My own little piece of ritual is fleeting and at best not directly looked at for if I notice it, it's runs away.

(BTW - the shun knives are to die for) just saying.

Next time you're out west (seattle/pdx) let me know I'd love to grab tea or more (if your schedule allows of course)

shannon said...

baby, i understand completely. why do you think i spent my entire day off before turkey day baking pies for people who ended up not coming? which yeah, that was kind of a bummer...but i had pie! lots of hand made, love filled, pie! and the crusts...from scratch.

it is ritualistic and there is something beautiful about that.

ScienceGirl said...

The things we do to keep our sanity! I make all family-recipe dishes from scratch (although I don't seem to mind taking shortcuts on other dishes). If you are not careful, you are going to have here a long list of really strange things people do ;)

Namaste said...

good for you. hard to carve out a sense of normalcy amidst the clamour of the graduate degree. bravo!