You are my haven, my sanctuary, my oasis. Oh, the SHEER BLISS of being in my kitchen, ALONE, creating healthful nourishment or concocting sinful delight! It has to be one of my most gratifying pleasures in life.
The joy I experience in my kitchen is overwhelmingly exuberant, but limited to several factors. First, cooking in a clean kitchen is an extraordinary feeling. When there are no dirty dishes in the sink, all clean dishes are already put away, and all countertops are immaculate, the kitchen is just so much more inviting for cooking or baking. Starting clean also means it's easier to end clean, with a yummy finished product as a bonus. (Have I mentioned my OCD tendencies before?)
Another limiting factor is being alone. By myself. Without help. I would much rather do everything by myself than have extra hands in the kitchen (since I have no control over other people's hands). I like to do the measuring, pouring, mixing, dicing, peeling, chopping, sauteing, deglazing, and garnishing all by me lonesome self. It's a control thing. I'm a freak like that.
Lastly, it's always nice to have sufficient time to do as I please in the kitchen. Cooking under pressure is no way to cook, since having a time limit is a sure fire way to make a mistake somewhere along the line. Convection ovens only help so much, and a stovetop setting on high risks boiling over and making more mess to clean up. All other shortcuts or substitutions will show up in the quality of the food, and is just not worth it.
Given these factors, you can imagine how often it is that I actually experience the true bliss of cooking in my kitchen. The kitchen is only ever completely spotless every two weeks, for a mere 12 to 18 hours. The kids are always home when it's time to cook dinner. Getting dinner cooked and served on time is definitely a challenge. On any given day, cooking also means any combination of the following:
- a very tight race against the clock to get dinner on the table so that there is sufficient time for violin practice, showers, bedtime stories, and an always-later-than-intended bedtime.
- high-pitched screaming in the background from either child (or, sometimes, both) over a squabble or a toy.
- overzealous kids demanding to help, stir, mix, cook, or watch (um, I'm racing against the clock, remember?)
- washing dirty dishes first in order to have an empty sink for later*.
- bumping into kids running around the kitchen island or tripping over toys they left whilst doing that.
- being interrupted with, "Mommy, I need to go potty!" (The kind that still requires help). Seriously?
- spilling, dropping, or smearing food somewhere because of my own clumsiness, followed by under-my-breath cursing while wasting more precious time cleaning up.
- *piling up more dirty dishes in the sink while making dinner, ones that will probably not get washed until the next day.
- screaming at the kids about something over the vent hood fan to no avail, since they look at me like I'm a mad woman mouthing words for fun.
- "Mommy, I spilled something on the carpet..." Oh. for. crying. out. loud.
But, on Thanksgiving morning, I had my chance to experience absolute exhilaration in my kitchen. I made Mommy's Mean Apple Pie. From scratch. Flying solo. The kitchen was pretty clean with an empty sink. Dinner was eight hours away, so no time pressure. DH was playing with the kids, so I had complete sovereignty in the kitchen. I was high on joy. I cut up the butter into the flour with two forks for the pie crust until my thenar eminence hurt on both hands. But they were pains of delight. I soaked up the bliss of every little part of baking this pie while I added plenty of Love Sprinkles into it. While the pie baked, I washed every piece of dish and utensil I used, so even before the pie was done, the kitchen was clean again. Ahhhhh! We had apple pie a la mode for dessert that night, and everyone could taste my special Love Sprinkles. (In case you're not familiar with this special ingredient, it's umami rendered from the chef's TLC since she was able to cook in peace and harmony.)
Before winter break, Dear Kitchen, you will host me and my kiddos again, when we will bake our annual holiday sugar cookies. Although I won't be able to fly solo for that one, it is another kind of glee that we experience together, although I must first mentally prepare myself well for that occasion. Because I will then reward myself the time and space to learn how to make a Swiss roll while the kids are in school, at which time I can throw out my arms and declare, "I AM THE KING OF MY KITCHEN!"