Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Asking me not to cook is like asking a dog not to lick himself.

Indigo asked, ‘What did you give up for Lent?’

I wasn’t going to bring it up but she asked and it got me thinking. I normally don’t give up anything for Lent. I feel that if you want to give up something, you should. You shouldn’t feel obligated to do so because of guilt. Plus, there needs to be an intention associated with your sacrifice to really mean something.

Everyone says, “I’ll give up soda” or “I’ll give up chocolate” but have you asked your selves, why? Why do you give up something? If you can’t give yourself a convincing answer, you’re not doing it for the right reasons.

I also don’t think it’s strictly a Lenten ritual or tied to any other religious event. Everyone in their life should give up something and not because you are forced to but because as a human being you have that luxury to.

I was about to not give up anything when our priest, Father Francis, said something that struck a cord. He essentially said what I said about intentions but added that the point isn’t simply if you can abstain from something but why and how what ever you sacrifice or do will bring you closer to yourself.

Just like the Taoist teachings I was brought up with, it’s all about enlightenment and self-enrichment. Honestly, how can you contribute to society without taking care of yourself?

I don’t consider my Lenten sacrifice a giving up of anything in particular. Instead, I’m stepping back from my day to day. I’m trying to get back to society. I live within my own world all the time. I need to step out of my normal day to day and realize that I’m taking things for granted. This year, I’m focusing on food.

I take for granted the accessibility and my passion for food and cooking. For 40 days, I’m imposing restrictions on what I can eat and cook. No more marathon cooking sessions. No more recipe tweaking and testing for hours and days on end. No more eating whatever I want whenever I want.

It’s the simple life for me. For the last few weeks, I’ve eaten simpler foods. I eat my regular meals but without the fillers.

For example, instead of a heaping slice of wild salmon, garlicky greens and wild rice, I choose steamed fish with ginger and white rice. Instead of my weekly Italian mama pasta feast, I make tomato orzo soup with a slice of whole grain bread.

The point is to simplify. By the way, this whole simple life thing is much more difficult with the Fresh Direct people always delivering to my building. Neither rain, nor sleet nor dead of night will stop these purveyors of good eats from delivering sustenance to gleeful food fanatics. Honestly, I see more FD trucks in my neighborhood than UPS trucks.

So how’s it going? Well first, I miss my spaghetti and meatballs immensely. I miss the fresh pasta with chopped herbs and thin shavings of parmesano reggiano. Second, I never realized how many times I’d eat during the day. I pass a kiosk or shop that sells food at least every hour. I still purchase eats and don’t deny myself if I’m hungry but I second guess myself now before I automatically ask for the triple venti latte with banana pound cake.

It’s only been a few weeks and I’m already realizing how much I take for granted when it comes to food. I’m not a food snob by any means. I’ll eat anything but I tend to obsessive over food for periods of time. I’ll make 5 meringues within a week just because I didn’t like the way it looked or tasted. Mind you, nothing gets wasted. If I can’t finish it, my co-workers and my husband’s co-workers gladly pitch in.

If you add up all the ingredients and time spent on the 5 meringues, you realize that you’ve spent a lot of money on this obsession. It’s not wasted but it’s still something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

So I guess my Lenten sacrifice is to simplify and for me it starts with food. I’m not totally giving up the crazy cooking but I hope by refraining from it now, I’ll appreciate my next opportunity to go crazy in the kitchen.

Addendum: So what do you plan to do after your self imposed sacrifice? I plan to have a gargantuan, button popping piece of strip steak, medium rare, served with a large portion of garlicky mashed potatoes and a large leafy green salad with lemon vinaigrette. Don’t forget the larger than life glass of red wine and giant slab of raspberry chocolate ribbon cake.

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