Alright, suckas, it’s day 2, and: success! Boom goes the dynamite!
I was so freaking domestic today, you will not believe it. Remarkably, I might say. I took the 3 year old to piano class this morning, and after that it was all domestic science. I cleaned, you know, as usual, but I prepped dinner while he was napping, and I felt so… organized. Productive. Tired.
I made the Butternut Squash Barley Risotto that I had planned on yesterday. I’m liking this new cookbook because it combines unusual flavors. For example, I wouldn’t normally put a cinnamon stick and a bay leaf together in a stock, but that’s what this called for, so, booyah. The cinnamon stick actually provided today’s Keystone cop moment. I bought a jar of cinnamon sticks the other day– I’ve really only ever used ground cinnamon– and when time came to put it in the stock, I couldn’t get one out of the jar.
The sticks were packed so tightly that they were not moving. I was shaking it, trying to shove my finger in there, and all the while that cooking panic was settling in: The 30 minutes of simmering has started! All the other ingredients are in there! Hurry up! You are going to RUIN this recipe if you don’t get that cinnamon stick in there in the next 10 seconds!
So I dove for the cutlery drawer and grabbed a chopstick, which, thankfully, fit into one of the larger sticks. I wedged it in there and gingerly pulled the stick out and hurled in into the pot, thank GOODNESS. I know, the high stakes drama of broth-making.
But seriously, how do they expect you to get these sticks out?
So I also prepped everything by chopping, dicing, etc. and setting things aside. I’m telling you, I could cook so much more if I had a sous chef. Anyone interested, send your resume along. There’s no pay, mind you, but there’s gotta be someone out there who’s independently wealthy and has mad knife skillz. And wants to spend his or her days in my kitchen chopping vegetables. Right?
So, back to the mad knife skillz. Besides having to peel and dice a butternut squash, which I find tedious and difficult, I also had to finely dice two shallots, grate fresh Parmesan cheese, juice a lemon and finely dice the zest, and chop mint leaves, which I skipped because I have to draw the taste line somewhere and I know my kids won’t eat it with mint in it. And this all takes time. I figure, the best thing I can do for myself is to gain me some fast cutting ability. But sadly, I’m pretty sure it’s all about practice, and that just means… more time. I’m ok with the knife skills, even if I do cut myself emergency room-style about once a year, but I’m not fast. If I had one super power, it would be super power knife abilities. For. Sure.
It turned out pretty well. Interestingly, the 6 year old liked the barley, and the 3 year old liked the squash. So, together they ate one serving.
During the nap I also whipped up a fresh loaf of whole wheat olive oil bread, which really just required shaping, sitting, and baking, because I already had the dough in the fridge. But still.
So, all this organized productivity brings me to my domestic history lesson. If y’all haven’t heard of Mrs. Beeton, let me introduce you. Isabella Beeton was kind of the Martha Stewart of the nineteenth century. (In fact, Martha references her in the introduction to her Homekeeping Handbook.) She wrote possibly the best known and most popular household manual, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published in final form in 1861. It’s truly a fascinating book, and if you are interested you can get a copy from Oxford’s World Classics; it’s still in print. In fact, there’s an eVersion here.
I thought about Isabella a lot today as I pondered this eating in experiment and what it might mean for the future of my home. And I felt as if Mrs. Beeton was speaking directly to me when she explains, “we may add, that to be a good housewife does not necessarily imply an abandonment of proper pleasures or amusing recreation; and we think it the more necessary to express this, as the performance of the duties of a mistress may, to some minds, perhaps seem to be incompatible with the enjoyment of life.” And I’m thinking, all right, sister, can I still have me some amusing recreation while preparing all my family’s meals? I’m really wondering. I’m in the “some minds” camp, because I spent essentially all my free time (that is, time not spent playing Legos, wiping someone’s butt, letting the dog in and out, picking people up from school(s), and the like) prepping the evening’s meal. What’s the answer, people?
I’ve come up with a few ideas, but I’m curious if anyone else has some advice here. Here are my options as I see them:
- make less elaborate meals (which is what I often resort to– plain pasta with broccoli, or whatever)
- buy more prepackaged/precut/ready to use stuff (shallots?)
- somehow develop Jamie Oliver-like knife speed
- give up all my free time to preparing food for the family
- spend Sunday preparing food for the week
Or, perhaps, some combination of these things. In an ideal world, I’d really want to have fantastic, delicious, healthy meals every night of the week. And not have to spend all my free time doin’ it. I just don’t know what that looks like. I’d love to know how you all deal with this problem, if you do.