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August 4, 2008

I know that what I’m about to write could be considered curious content from a person who has decided to publish a food blog, but,

I’m just not enjoying cooking right now.

Are you surprised? (My recent posting history has been slight, to say the least.) I sort of made an unspoken deal with myself (are deals-with-self ever really spoken aloud?), when starting this whole thing, that I would try to avoid excuses and overt apologies in my posts. So I’ve been avoiding writing about this, shall we say, lack of felt inspiration in my culinary life. But it then occurred to me: this is a part of every culinary life. So why not share it?

Like any creative drought, I can pinpoint some practical culprits. The first and foremost being that I’m pretty much wiped out all the time, counting the days until I no longer look like I swallowed a soccer ball (something a random 3-year old accused me of this morning, just as he was peering under my shirt to see if his suspicions could be backed by physical evidence). Another could be a predictable and previously documented case of summer blues, back as they are every August. Yet another factor could be the seemingly endless demands of feeding a child with difficult food allergies. Sometimes it takes all my kitchen energy just to keep up with his menu; cooking chicken, rendering and freezing the fat, making soy yogurt, making bread, etc. I think these tasks are difficult because they, by nature, can’t be new and exciting.

But the reasons ultimately don’t matter. Cooking is a creative task, and all creative acts must go through unique versions of doldrums. Fall is around the corner, as is an end to the cumbersome act of carrying a child (although I am aware that a new and different exhaustion must be faced at that time). And I do believe a day will come when my son will be able to eat new foods. The things that seemingly thwart inspiration right now will not continue to do so; this, too, shall pass.

In the meantime, I have managed to enjoy some food. Enough to share a few tastes of late that have caused me to be thankful for the miracle of tastebuds.

  • Real, homemade hot fudge. Served at a party for some friends where everyone made their own ice cream sundae. I topped my vanilla ice cream with a hearty covering of this fudge, along with sliced strawberries and whipped cream. It was a thing summer was made for.
  • Golden cherry tomatoes, from the local farmer’s market. The farmer at his stand let me taste one before I bought them, and they were the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. Like candy. I bought up a bag, and used them in my latest tomato pie, which ended up being, by far, the best tomato pie I’ve ever made. Which goes to show, a tomato pie is 100%, undeniably, ALL about the tomatoes.
  • Really good chocolate cake. Eaten at a party for a friend visiting the states from overseas (it was fun to see you Meagan!). A lovely chocolate layer cake, with chocolate buttercream frosting. The host said it was a Southern Living recipe, and it rivaled my current-favorite Grit recipe for chocolate cake.
  • Day-old pastries from a rockin’ bakery in Chattanooga, TN, called Niedlov’s. We had friends from that fair river city come for an overnight visit, and they graciously brought with them an assorted baker’s dozen of breakfast pastries. Chocolate croissants, muffins, cinnamon rolls, almond croissants. Even a day old, and reheated in my oven, they made a wonderful breakfast sampler platter. They even inspired a verbal claim to my husband that, when I grow up, I want to work in a bakery.

As I read the list, and think about other moments of mouthwatering joy, I realize they are almost all centered around food that I did not prepare. It’s times such as these that I better understand my friends who don’t enjoy cooking. If cooking were always as seemingly cumbersome and exhausting as it feels right now, I’d find very little reason to carry on doing it. Not to mention spend a lot more money eating out. But, hard as it is for me to believe today, I will actually forget what this feels like. And will go back to my usual, overly-excited, a bit overbearing, kitchen-obsessed self, proselytizing to any willing ear why my latest food obsession should be everyone else’s, too.

In the meantime, I’ll be here — avoiding the heat, looking for candy-like tomatoes and homemade chocolate cake to appear before my eyes. And willing the glorious month of October to show us its first day.

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