Sunday Cooking

I did not help my mom in the kitchen very much while I was growing up, unless you count making my own school lunches and learning how to make certain foods that I wanted to eat over and over again, like mashed potatoes and chocolate chip cookies.

So when I was living alone as a younger adult, I soon realized that I didn't know how to cook real food.  Recipes had mysterious ingredients in them, like "stock", and unclear commands, like "cut the butter into the flour".  Obviously I avoided those recipes until I had made all of the other ones with easier instructions.  I even tried once to make soup not only without stock, but also without onions.  I have never liked raw onion, and I hadn't yet realized not only that cooked onion completely different than raw onion, but also that cooking an onion is the beginning of almost everything.

I made a lot of gourmet grilled cheese with tomato soup from a box and relied upon Amy's Organics frozen meals for my lunches at work.  I ate out a lot.  I was not unusual among my peers in this, but I know my parents were confused.  They knew that I should have been on a budget, so my habit of eating out frequently seemed strange to them.  But, that's what we did; as entertainment, as a vehicle for socializing, as a way to feel grown-up, and probably because suddenly delicious food was quite hip.

Over the years, my cooking skills have expanded, in fits and starts.  I have made peace with the mighty onion, although I do experience what I consider to be uncommon discomfort in my eyes when I chop one.  My respect for its capacity to flavor gets me through it.

Today as I was working on my new recipe for the week, a pot pie recipe from a cookbook by the chef and founder of my favorite restaurant in Minneapolis, I was reminded of past Sundays spent in the kitchen.  When I was teaching, and and trying to learn how to make some homemade things, I was not successful at making time or finding energy to cook well during the week.  Saturday was always spent running around, working on my master's degree, catching up on sleep, seeing friends, exercising, all manner of normal Saturday things.  Sunday, the day that I should have been catching up on work, more often than I not, was the day that I cooked things.   Or at least it's fair to say that if I was to cook something healthy requiring multiple steps and multiple ingredients, it most likely occurred on a Sunday. 

Since I should have been working, cooking beckoned, by virtue of it being more appealing than working and yet still providing a sense of accomplishment.  Plus, when I started the week after having worked all day on a Sunday, I felt ornery and worn-out by Tuesday. If I spent Sunday cooking a big pot of chili or a chicken casserole, I was not only nourished for several days, also more refreshed for the coming week.  Maybe learning how to cook taught me what can be good about Sundays, which is a day of the week I had never much appreciated before.

I'm grateful that I don't currently have to spend Sundays working, or feeling guilty for work I'm not doing.  Still, I have noticed that the Sunday cooking habit has stuck with me.  Lately I have even noticed that I enjoy it.  It is a nice way to be both methodical and creative, with a low level of investment.  Today I cooked in the spirit of Michael Pollan, making indulgent foods from scratch, instead of buying the junk-food versions at the store.  The pot pies provided the tasty comfort-food effect I was seeking and the homemade peppermint patties satisfied my raging pregnancy-amplified sweet tooth.  I didn't want to get my hopes up, but both treats went very well, so it was a Sunday well-spent.