I haven’t really enjoyed myself in the kitchen for a very long time.
Dinner has become a horrific, daunting monster that I try to beat back with a spatula every afternoon around 4 p.m. All of those tasks that usually motivate me– making sourdough, cooking everything from scratch– have become massive, ugly beasts that leer at me from my brown and yellow, disgusting 70s mess of a kitchen.
Burn-out. It makes me cranky and ungrateful. I don’t want to live like that.
Of course, the problem isn’t the cooking itself. It’s that I’m trying to do too much and I don’t have the time and love to put into the kitchen that I used to have. So I decided that I needed to treat the kitchen like therapy instead of an enemy. That sounded much nicer.
I tried to think back. What made me love the kitchen in the first place?
My childhood- baking with my mother. Sitting on the counter, carefully measuring scoops of flour, baking soda, and sugar, watching mountains of drifted snow build in the bowl and delightfully sticking my finger in it to draw lines and faces. Grilling hundreds of Welsh cookies together for a fundraiser. Singing a silly song about looking for a loaf pan that I still remember 25 years later.
My first jobs- discovering how dinner really becomes a reality. Exploring new tastes and flavors and shedding my pickiness. Tandoori chicken, portabella mushroom paninis, formal tea parties with tiny sandwich triangles. My experience as a sous chef and short-order cook, learning to move like lightning in the kitchen and come out smiling and calm to my waiting customers. Even waitressing– I loved it all. The clinking of dishes, the steam off the griddle, the delicious smells and morning coffee and noise and hustling of the workplace. I’d honestly still be very happy working in a restaurant.
My early married years- learning how to cook my mother’s secret recipes. Calling my mom-in-law to find out how she made her famous chicken cutlets. Figuring out how to “cook by the look” and not the book. Kitchen mishaps along the journey– exploding a Pyrex dish in the oven, trying to cook a chicken and not finishing it until 10:30 at night, lumpy loaves of bread and burnt pasta. For some reason I kept coming back to try to do more of it.
The kitchen holds a fond place in my heart. But I’ve succumbed to frustration and tiredness in recent years, and I don’t wanna cook no more.
My grandmother bought me a tiny trivet when we first got married that reads, “Kissin’ don’t last. Cookin’ do.” I’ve kept it all eight years because it makes me smile.
Thankfully, I have a really awesome husband that will still kiss me, and even cook for me too. He makes the most delicious eggs of anyone I know. This has earned him the title of official breakfast cook.
You want to know the secret to the best scrambled eggs?
First, turn on the radio and make sure the kitchen is pleasant. Get the radiator nice and warm in the winter, or fling the door wide open in the summer. Start some coffee brewing and heat a cast iron pan with bacon grease. Chop a clove or two of garlic and throw it in the pan.
Meanwhile, set your children to playing something purposeful. Wash some dishes, clear the counter, get some steam and dish-clinking going on. Trust me, it makes the kitchen happier. Add onion and whatever chopped vegetable you have to the pan. Let them soften over medium-high heat. If the pan gets dry, add a splash of water, cover it, and turn the heat down a little. Allow the onions and vegetables to caramelize.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs and milk in a bowl. Stop to hug your husband and ignore the bickering children in the other room. Make sure you can hear your rooster crowing if you have one. Once the stuff in the pan is properly soft and browned at the edges, pour in your eggs and give it a stir. Quickly add chopped or grated cheese of your choice.
Let the eggs sit just a couple minutes on medium-low heat- don’t stir the life out of them. Drink some coffee. Scratch a back. Gently go around the pan and turn the eggs over. Give them a couple more minutes. Stretch and set the table. Turn the eggs one more time if necessary, ensuring that the eggs are cooked but not dried out.
Call everyone to the table. Light a candle. Eat your eggs with bread or biscuits or bagels or nothing at all. Try sauerkraut on your eggs. Sit around in your pajamas for a little longer if you can. Talk about your day and get a plan. Read the paper. Ask your kids questions and take interest in each other. Clean up together when you’re done.
We have our favorite way to make scrambled eggs- but the best way to do it is with time and music and togetherness.
Clearly, love is the key to reclaiming the kitchen AND the secret ingredient in great scrambled eggs.