Sunday, June 10, 2012

Doing It Myself


For lunch today I made a plate of blueberries, baby carrots, and raspberries with a handful of tortilla chips and a small bowl of Wegmans salsa. It looked absolutely delicious and the blueberries and raspberries certainly were. Baby carrots taste to me like half-assed carrots, which is to say that they are the Americanized version of a vegetable: easy to eat but without all that annoying good taste! Then I took a chip and dipped it into the salsa.

Huh?

I chewed and swallowed and made a face. I took another chip, dipped it in, and took a bite. I couldn't figure out what was troubling me. Then it came to me: the salsa tasted like bad ketchup. I held it in my mouth to taste it more carefully. No, it hadn't expired. It wasn't a bad batch. It tasted just the way it was supposed to taste: like a stand-in for what salsa really is.

Today I also took the time to make a pot of pinto beans. I bought a bag of beans for about the price of one can of beans and proceeded to make the equivalent of four cans of beans with a lot less salt, a bit of ground clove, and some pepper. The beans taste great!

Of course the lesson here is that I should make my own food. Instead of baby carrots I can peel and chop up some carrots. A side benefit of that process is that I can then boil the carrot peels into vegetable stock to use when I make rice to go with my beans. I should also start making my own salsa so that my kids know what it's supposed to taste like.

I don't want to go too far too fast with this. I'm reminded here of the great Carl Sagan quote, "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." I'm not ready to invent the universe but the idea of a good apple pie sounds good to me. I'll have to learn how to make a crust.

I do want to learn how to do a lot more of my own cooking. I already do a fair amount of it. My wife and I make dinner about six times a week and we work from cookbooks instead of packages. The food tastes better that way. That said, burritos are going to taste better now that I made the beans. And if I start finding people who can make me some cheese and buy lettuce from people instead of a giant supermarket, I know that things will taste even better than they have so far.

It's all about doing things for ourselves. An old lesson that you've heard and thought of a thousand times before, but here's a bit of a twist.

Buying microwaveable popcorn plays on the wish to have food appear by magic. I give into that idea because it sounds better than having to work for a bowl of popcorn. Turns out that the work involved in measuring two tablespoons of oil and half a cup of popcorn into a pan with a tight fitting lid is really not that much and the results are better than the microwaved bag.

That's not the twist. Here it comes:

For years I have been wanting my poetry to be magically popular. I have long imagined a moment like they used to describe in old Hollywood tales. A beautiful young waitress is plucked from her diner job to star in a major motion picture and goes on to be the greatest thing in movies. My version had someone coming across my poetry blog by accident and being transfixed. The next day I'm offered the job of Poet Laureate and a book is put together for me which sells twelve million copies and changes the world.

Yeah, I know it sounds plausible and I too am shocked that it has yet to happen.

I'm also learning that the work I've begun putting into creating a book of poetry, into getting my work published, has been more satisfying even than getting published. It's great work and, if you'll forgive me, it tastes fantastic. It's filling, nutritious, and satisfying physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Waiting to be discovered is akin to that bag of microwave popcorn. Even if it worked, I think I would miss out on the happiness of creating my life.

Creating my life. I like that phrase. Sounds like the sort of thing I have to do one word at a time, one line after another. Sounds like all I need to do is write on.