For everything, as we know, there is a season: a time to plant, a time to reap; a time to laugh, a time to weep. A time to cook…and a time to refrain from cooking.
My time to cook began in the Summer of Love of 1967. Now, as of our move to Wake Robin a month ago, the time to refrain from cooking has arrived. And not a moment too soon.
I got married just before feminism made its second pass through the American consciousness, when it was not considered particularly attractive for young ladies to be in graduate school, which I was. Cooking, on the other hand, we were told was a feminine adornment and essential to the health of a marriage, so I strove to broaden my repertory, which prior to the wedding had been limited to boiling eggs.
It wasn\’t easy to produce a salad, meat, two veg and dessert seven days a week on our grad student income, and things got more complicated when our daughters began to eat solid foods. Now, in addition to finances, I had three people\’s tastes to consider, plus I was starting to become aware, along with the rest of America, of the effects of diet on health.
At around this time I fell under the spell of The Mother Earth News, and became persuaded that the only way to keep my family from an early grave was to put on the table food that I had personally grown: broccoli from my garden, apples from my trees, eggs from my hens, milk from my goats, and bread baked with my own two hands (though the flour came from the store).
This had a lot of charm, but it was a ton of work. Once they\’d eaten their first home-grown omelette and drunk their first miraculous glasses of goat\’s milk, home-grown food became the norm and my family gradually ceased to exclaim about the wonderfulness of my efforts. And, children being what they are, the girls turned up their snub little noses at my hard-won broccoli, and pined for McDonald\’s.
Nevertheless, I persevered. I still got pleasure from the garden and the goats, but cooking became a chore. I\’ve known people, all of them male, who say they come home from a day\’s work and look forward to making a creative dinner–they say it relaxes them. I was not born to be one of these people. I was born to marry one.
But I hadn\’t. My husband declared himself willing to help, but on his terms: TV dinners, soups by Campbell\’s, and green beans from the garden of the Jolly Green Giant. Convinced that on such a diet we\’d all be dead within the year, I shooed him out of the kitchen, gritted my teeth, and cooked on.
Years passed. We moved from country to city to country again. The city interludes were less arduous, because at least I wasn\’t producing the food, but I still had to shop for it. I knew, as I opened my eyes every morning, that unless I caved and we ordered pizza, before I went to my rest that night I was going to have to do something about dinner.
And for almost fifty years, I did.
Now that\’s behind me. Our monthly fees include lunch or dinner, in the informal cafe or the formalish (this being Vermont) dining room. The food is, almost without exception, lovely, and of astounding variety. I eat more vegetables here than I ever did before. Wake Robin is an important presence in the local farm-to-table movement, so the food is pretty much guilt-free.
Is there nothing I miss of my own cooking? Certainly: garlic sauteed in olive oil; salads consisting entirely of arugula; bread with, again, olive oil. But our cottage kitchen is the most modern I\’ve ever had, and its cupboards contain my old cast iron pans and well-worn wooden spoons. There\’s a bottle of olive oil in the pantry, and a paper bag with the remains of last summer\’s garlic crop. There\’s no reason I can\’t whip up a little Mediterranean dish anytime I really feel the urge. I\’ve even given some hazy consideration to getting deeply into bread making again. And maybe I will–in the winter perhaps…
But for now, every day I rejoice in the knowledge that the season to refrain from cooking has arrived.