Monday, May 07, 2007

You Get What You Give (Up)

This is the time of year when cooking is a joy. My herbs are ready to harvest as needed — well, if they don’t drown in all the rain — and the farmers market, a few weeks behind, is starting to fill up with fresh, local produce. The recipes in this post are all ones that I made over the weekend, and all use the produce that I found at the market and my fresh herbs along with some pantry staples.

I wouldn’t say the first year or so of “cooking local” was as easy. I had been living without seasons as far as food goes. I cooked what I wanted, when I wanted because it was all there at the store. Why it tasted okay sometimes and sometimes not, I blamed on my own cooking.

“Cooking local” meant giving up having what I wanted when I wanted. It meant finding what is fresh and cooking with what is there, even when it is rhubarb and you've never cooked it before. It was a learning process, this letting go of control, but at the end of that first year, I found a passion and appreciation for food at its finest, ripest, best and in season. I found new varieties that could not be found in a store, grown by people even more passionate about the food they grow than I am about eating it. I learned to give up control to the seasons, to nature, to my geography, and in doing so, I gained the finest of foods on my table. Fresher than four-star restaurant finest, literally.

Unfortunately, I can’t say how my kiddo liked, or didn’t, many of these dishes I prepared over the weekend. This was one of those weekends where she seemed to survive on wholegrain bread, a few grapes, one serving of edamame, and mostly, air.

It’s distressing for me as a parent even though I have been told over and over that it is normal. At one point I found myself desperately trying to just get her to try one of the things I made. I had to take a deep breath. To say to myself, “Wait. Stop. You are not doing any good here. Just making it a struggle.”

“Yeah, you’re all done. Okay.” I said aloud.

I have to admit, as you work hard to create recipes for the little ones to like, the odd hunger strikes are hard on your domestic goddess ego. You think, “Oh, if she would just TRY it, she would love it!”

Once again, I learned, food and control do not mix.

I’ve given up a lot of things as a parent. Things like my sense of style and time spent to look decent (did I ever have this?), my sense of what is gross to handle (or have spewed on me), my workouts, free time, the state of certain body parts post pregnancy, control of my schedule, my life, my sanity. I just had to let all that go. There is a lot of letting go. So much, I wonder which of us is growing more on a daily basis, my child or me.

Tonight, Monday, she and I “raced” each other to eat our broccoli, laughing and playing, hugging one another, having an easy, fun dinner with no worries, no hassles. It was a joy, a real joy for all of us. I realized just how much you gain when you let go of what doesn't matter. And I am not just talking about food.

Although, I admit to a bit of pride at the joyful shouts of “More broccoli! More broccoli!”

The fresh herbs on hand, pantry items, and produce from the farmers market inspired the following dishes. Also served the roasted asparagus, broccolini with sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts, and whole grain rolls from the local bakery.

Chicken with Pan Sauce, Roasted Tomatoes, Pesto and Goat Cheese
Basil Pesto
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
Tarragon, Red Grape and Ricotta Salata Salad
Rhubarb Crumble with Rosemary and Thyme
Looking for these recipes? They will be included in my upcoming book co-authored with Ali of Cleaner Plate Club!

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