I might need help, or maybe just an extra egg. I cook under fire. When I need a break, a distraction or feel like a challenge I usually take to the kitchen. And even when cooking options are limited, I am still cooking. In December both the microwave and toaster oven went out. Not a problem. I made toast old school style in a hot buttered skillet. Then when added when we were without a stove top for two weeks in January, I still continued cooking despite the complication (everything happens in threes). As frustrated as I was to have my cooking options limited, I enjoyed the test of my creativity and produced some satisfying meals.
At the same time this month I’ve been reading Annia Ciezaldo’s Day of Honey, a memoir of food and war in the Middle East. In the midst of the wars in Lebanon and Iraq during the last decade, Ciezaldo experienced beauty amidst turmoil and celebration in turbulence through connections maintained and forged around the table. In one particular scene, when tensions are at a boiling point, “during the Mahdi Army uprising, the first Marine assault on Fallujah, and the Abu-Ghraid court-martials,” she stops for dinner at a local hotel restaurant. And despite the terror outside, the chef chose that night “to make a chicken roulade stuffed with cream sauce.” Ciezaldo is struck by the beauty of the gesture, amid the failing generators and lack of air conditioning in the heat. When asked why, the chef replies, “It’s what I do.”
I was struck by the juxtaposition of consumable, fleeting beauty and the war outside the restaurant. Even under stress, and sometimes because of it, people experience the need to create something good, even if it cannot last. I resonated and recalled some of President Uchtdorf’s words on the topic.
The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.
Even tonight when I have been busy and loaded with a heavy to-do list and a new house full of repair projects, I inexplicably made a carrot cake, studded with toasted sunflower seeds, and iced in orange mascarpone frosting. It was 30 minutes of peace and concentration in the kitchen. The smell of the sugared cinnamon crust caramelizing in the oven swirled through the house and I felt satisfaction. Nevermind I was headed back to my books and computer to get back to the work I had been neglecting.
My husband questions my sanity in these moments, wondering who on earth retreats to the kitchen to create more dishes to be washed when they are already feeling crunched. I guess I can’t help myself. More than most other things, cooking is my outlet, a deep source of satisfaction. comfort and contentment. I like knowing I can start with raw materials and make something good of them, even if they are made to be consumed; leaving little trace of my artistry behind. But from my place at the computer now, I can hear my husband clinking the knife against the plate, slicing himself a piece of my efforts, and I am not sorry for my brand of therapy, my need for edible creation. It’s just what I do.
How do you find release creatively?