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Kitchen Garden

Sunday Cooking in Place

We Are The Revolution by Massimo Bottura.

My spouse remains at her sister’s home, helping her move, unpack and settle in. Sunday in Big Grove the weather was sub-optimal for gardening. With temperatures in the 40s and 50s, intermittent rain, and ground too wet to work, I stayed busy indoors all morning. It was in the afternoon things changed.

The greenhouse is filled with seedlings and once the weather breaks there is a lot to get planted. For now I wait for better conditions. That’s where I found myself, as we find ourselves so often, longing for something that isn’t. It can get the best of us on wistful Sunday afternoons alone.

I moped for a while, then reheated a container of leftover creamed vegetables and chick peas for lunch. At some point I sat in the living room and picked up my mobile device to watch videos. I started with President Biden’s speech at the White House Correspondents dinner Saturday night. Next, I watched Trevor Noah’s remarks there. There was some humor tinged with remorse at what our politics have become.

Around 2 p.m. I went to my writing place and turned everything off, including my desktop. In a roundabout way, I got back to videos.

I watched Iowa Press where the guest was State Auditor Rob Sand. Being auditor isn’t a flashy job, yet Sand has made something of his position. What he didn’t do was let O. Kay Henderson trap him into the conventional news narrative about the Iowa Democratic caucuses. Here’s the transcript:

Henderson: Your party, the Iowa Democratic Party, is going to have to make a case to the Democratic National Committee that Iowa’s Caucuses should remain first. What case would you make?

Sand: That experience matters in doing this. I talked to a reporter who has been a national reporter for a long time during the caucuses last time and I remember he has traveled all over the country. And he’s like, you know what, you guys actually are, you’re really good at this. I mean, I go to New Hampshire a lot and they’ve got experience with it too, but the quality of the questions that are asked of the person who wants to be the next leader of the free world in the state of Iowa are just head and shoulders above any other state.

Henderson: But that’s not the issue. The issue is participation. The caucuses prevent people from participating because of the mode of the voting and also it has got this weird caucus math.

Sand: Yeah. We can continue to make reforms. I think that’s fine. We can make the changes. But Iowa culturally has that attentive population that is good I think at asking those questions and filling that role and I think it would be a mistake for us to not be going first.

Iowa Press, April 29, 2022.

I appreciate Sand sticking to his talking point on the caucuses, even If I disagree Iowa should be first.

The afternoon waned. The main work of the day finished, I picked up my mobile device again and watched a couple of Massimo Bottura’s homemade videos from the pandemic. “This is not Master Class cooking,” he said. “It is home cooking.”

Then I came upon the video linked above, in which Bottura talks about the relationship between art and food. “My kitchen is not a book of recipes, a list of ingredients, or a demonstration of techniques,” he said. “But a way of understanding my terrain.” That gets to the heart of what I am trying to accomplish in my kitchen garden. It was unsettling.

I’d been planning to make pizza for a few days and after 3 p.m. I began making the dough. It begins with a scant cup of hot water taken from the tap. I put my finger in it to make sure it is not hot enough to kill the active dry yeast. I pour it in a bowl and add a teaspoon of yeast, a teaspoon of sugar, a dash of salt and a tablespoon of all purpose flour and mix it together. I add flour, knead it into a ball and put it in an oiled, covered bowl to rise in an oven at the lowest possible setting. It takes about an hour.

Pizza sauce is different each time I make it. My current go-to is a 15 ounce can of Kirkland organic tomato sauce. It is seasoned, yet I add. Sunday the mixture was a teaspoon each of granulated garlic, onion powder, home-grown oregano, and basil. It was a rich, dark red color. About half was reserved for pasta later in the week.

When the dough had risen, I punched it down and kneaded again. I put the ball on a piece of parchment paper laid across the wooden paddle and formed the dough. I learned if the edges remain mostly untouched they will bake to be thick. I’ve been enjoying that the last several pies.

Toppings are a “what’s in the refrigerator moment.” It was capers, spring onions and part of a fresh red bell pepper. Toppings are almost never the same and depend on what’s available. Pizzas are the best once basil comes in from the garden.

I topped it with mozzarella cheese and slid it into the 500 degree oven on the ceramic floor tiles I placed on the bottom shelf. Eight minutes later, dinner was ready.

I don’t know if what I wrote is a recipe. It wasn’t intended to be. Engagement in food preparation was a way of dealing with one solitary afternoon. It’s the same way writing about it from our quiet house this morning is. There are days when we yearn to be with people and others we crave solitude. While we are never truly separate from society, gaining introspection for a while helps us function better in the broader world. Naming what this is is not necessary. It’s expressing a dominion over something that doesn’t need it. Call it what you will, but I’ll use the phrase “cooking in place.” It made the best of what could have been a lonesome afternoon.

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