We’re now solidly into February, and Spring is making valiant efforts, here and there, to get started.
It’s scary to think that in about 8 weeks I’ll start preparing my class for the annual May Day celebrations, and once that’s done, the slide down to summer officially begins. In fact, it’s already technically started. February half-term officially signals that half the school year is done. And when the previous summer still feels fairly recent in your head, it can seem a surprising thought to know you’re over the mountain of the academic year.
Anyway, my resolution for the new year was to cook more. Not cakes, breads or anything like that. I have no aptitude for them and no one here anyway, to share in the eating of. I’m talking more of main meals. Savoury things. The meals of the day-to-day. And tied to that resolution was the desire to spend less time on the internet, and more time reading, cooking and watching things on the telly that interest me. The internet still has its place, but I feel like I waste less time on it and spend more time on things that ultimately make me feel happier, calmer and more productive. As a result, this past half term has passed much easier than the one before Christmas, and although the work-load remains constant, I find I now get it done quicker and have more time away from it.
And through making more of an effort to cook more, and try new meals, I am enjoying it more and more, and pleasingly, it has turned into something I’m actually quite good at. That daily movement towards the kitchen, and the trips to the supermarket to get the ingredients for a lot more “cooking from scratch” is fun to me. I think that, when you have a job that is more physically demanding, and often extremely intellectually demanding, taking the time to do something practical with your hands that produces something necessary for your body, is a good balance to the other demands.
Personally, I did not grow up cooking. I baked cakes and the like from time to time, but I don’t recall ever doing it independently. I only ever did it with Mum, and (for me anyway, I don’t know about her), it was more about spending time together and creating a joint thing, than focused so much on the finished product.
The day to day act of “cooking to feed growing children” was rarely something I got involved with, and although I watched the process most days, I rarely participated or had any interest in doing so. But lately… I find myself scanning blogs and websites, and real, actual cookbooks, and marking pages and making shopping lists based on what I choose.
And just this month alone, I have discovered the sharp, cheesy, tangy wonder that is pesto, perfect smothered on chicken and baked in the oven. I stuffed chicken breasts with mozzarella, tomato paste and pepperoni, and discovered it was way better than any hunters chicken I’d ever eaten out. I made a vinegary pea sauce and mixed it with salmon paste and actual salmon chunks to plonk on a pasta dish, and just a few chilli flakes, and it was delicious.
It has been fun to dirty every single pan I have, and to use every single knife. It has been fun to buy things from the supermarket, and consciously choose free range, or grass-fed, or organic.
There is something that feels so nice inside, about choosing to make things out of foods my grandmas or great-grandmas would have recognised. And while ready meals and ease still very much have their place (a ready meal on Tuesday choir night is a pleasing necessary, and a ready-made pizza is still hard to beat), making things from scratch makes me feel rather smug and proud of myself! And why not embrace things that make you feel good?