Sunday, January 27, 2013

Eat, Write, and Be Happy

Let us talk of food. My wife and I went to the grocery store today and did a thoughtful shop. In the store we often throw stuff in the cart willy-nilly, but today we took time to consider what we did and didn't need.

Lately, since I mostly stopped eating meat, we have been buying and using more vegetables (instead of buying and then letting them rot, our old plan). Today I bought garlic, a thumb of ginger, and some leeks to make a lunch of Mark Bittman's and Jean-Georges Vongerichten's fried rice for my wife and me.

My girls don't like this recipe and so were having--I'm ashamed to admit--instant mac and cheese. After it had been made, I tried some and confirmed (again) that it doesn't taste like food. I prefer the fried rice I was making. I prefer creation.

To make instant mac and cheese, bring water to a boil, dump in the box of pasta and leave it for a few minutes. Drain the cooked pasta, dump in the orange powder from the packet, throw in some butter and milk, stir and serve. There's lunch in less than ten minutes.

No thank you.

Evan Sung for the New York Times
To make the fried rice I had today required me to peel eight cloves of garlic and a thumb of ginger, then chop them fine. I could buy jars of the stuff, but chopping leaves me time to think. I cleaned and slivered (that's a word, right?) a leek. I had cooked a cup of dried jasmine rice earlier.

I pulled down our big old cast iron pan and heated it. I added oil and browned the garlic and ginger, scooped that out onto paper towel, then tossed in the leeks and turned the heat down for ten minutes. Once the leeks were done and scooped out onto a plate, I turned the heat back up, added oil, and threw in the rice to get hot. I scooped a cup of rice onto each plate and scraped the pan out with a spatula. Along with some oil I cracked in two eggs.

As the eggs fried, I layered the leeks over the rice and turned a fried egg atop the leeks. I sprinkled garlic and ginger over the egg, then dribbled sesame oil and soy sauce over the top.

I guess the kids enjoyed their mac and cheese. They didn't say much as I cut into the egg and yellow yoke ran down through leeks and rice, mixed with crunchy garlic and ginger, and was touched by dashes of sesame oil and soy sauce. Every bite was astounding. My meal was a delight, something to celebrate.

It took about forty-five minutes to compose this meal. That's a long time for a lunch, but what was there more important to do in that time than create something wondrous?

I don't want to lecture anyone other than myself here. I took forty-five minutes of my life today to create wonder. The process of creating it wasn't work, it was play. I feel refreshed as much from the creation as from the eating. It's the same kind of feeling I have after an hour's work writing, editing, and publishing an essay.

All of which is to say, I'll cook and write on.