On my darkest days, you can find me in the kitchen. I will probably be making soup.
What is it about cooking that is so healing? I’ve wondered this on many an onion-chopping, tomato-dicing evening.
Do you know those kitchen gurus? The ones who were born knowing how to know the bread is done by smelling it, what spice to add to transform the soup from delicious to mind-blowingly delicious? Yeah, that is not me. I am a Recipe Follower. I park myself in front of the oven 10 minutes before the bread should come out, wishing I knew what “done when golden brown” meant (Really. I could describe a whole spectrum of colors as potentially “golden brown.” Which one is it?).
Suffice it to say, then, that my call to the kitchen is not because of my natural talents. But yet, despite the fact that I’m a little unsure, I still feel the pull of clanging pots, swirling aromas, splashes and spills. And I feel it most on the days when despair creeps in, when the internal Peanut Gallery chatters away that I can’t do anything right.
On those days, I can trust that cooking is bigger than my dark days. Cooking is as old as time, solid and strong. I feel deeply rooted in the lineage of souls who have, like me, stood before fires, wood ovens, and sleek steel appliances. I can rest for awhile in the ancient acts of chopping and stirring. I can trust these acts: unlike the rest of life, they will not be moved by the winds of change.
I think the joy-filled movie Julie and Julia captures it best. I watched this movie as a frazzled city girl, exhausted by an emotionally-draining job and utterly lost in her career path. I welled up as I watched Julie – a frazzled, drained, and lost woman herself – sigh over her mixing bowl and pronounce: “I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say ‘nothing’ I mean nothing, I can come home and absolutely know that if I add egg yolks to chocolate, sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such comfort.” Yes and yes. The solid, changeless hands of cooking can hold me for a time while I breathe and collect the scattered pieces of my spirit.
Today, I needed to rest in the kitchen. Specifically, I needed the full-bodied, five-senses experience of cooking soup. I needed the rich layers of aroma, the piles of crisp vegetables, the soft curls of steam coming off the top. It’s no accident we eat soup when we’re sick – the act of making soup is medicine.
I made a beauty of a recipe I had been saving to make for months. Creamy Roasted Tomato, Garlic, and Onion Coconut Soup. Just writing that makes me sing. And when you add a little dash of novelty to the ancient art of cooking, magic happens. I had never roasted garlic before. Roasted garlic is a dream. You could eat roasted garlic cloves whole like popcorn. The garlic alone was pure joy.
Step into the kitchen today. Feel yourself connect with the most timeless act that exists. Rest in its comfort and revel in its novelty.
Also, if possible, pair whatever you’re making with some cornbread.
Music and words to bring you joy:
This is my anthem for dark days. The Wailin’ Jennys sing the words that are in my soul.
Thich Nhat Hanh: