Commentary Miscellaneous

status interruptus

how do i do it? ::::

Peach's rendition of "Mommy and sun"


Happy Holidays, everyone. I’ll be taking a little break from the blog to rev up for January! I’ll leave you with this, a peek into the mechanics. This is not a recipe. It’s a descriptive post, one of cause and effect. It widens the view from where you are standing, into this world of flood bloggerdom. I’ve gotten some questions on exactly how I make this blog work, with all of my family responsibilities. It’s not just pretty pictures or cheerful commentary on the taste of some dish or summer fruit. The lack of a recipe also means that my kitchen needs a little less action, seeing as I now have a day job! Yes! I’m going to try to keep up with twice a week postings in January — we’ll see what happens. I started working this month and it’s been a challenge (never mind I had a frenzied cooking spell at the end of last month in preparation). Now with the holidays, it’s even more challenging. Sitting down to write is fleeting, at best.

Despite the frustrations of not having a day job and the limits on my time when I first started the blog, some of my industriousness had, and still does, to do with that I don’t watch much TV. People wonder how long ago our ancestors accomplished so much: hand washing the clothes, cooking meals from scratch, including killing the chicken that morning, building a home. It’s got to do partly with our modern obsession of whiling away time spent in front of a tinny television, full of “reality” shows and docu-dramas. Get off your couch, and into the kitchen. I’m not against TV, not at all. I had the compelling urge and need to watch the first entire season of glee  in 5 days during maternity leave. Through my weepy hormone surges and new baby attached to my boob, it seemed right. It was after that spell when I seriously started thinking about starting the blog.

Additionally, I make this food blog work because it’s fun. I love to see the vibrant photos and learn how to shoot them better, even with a point-and-shoot camera. It’s fun to try new recipes or give old ones a little makeover. I love to sit down and write, exploring ideas through storytelling with recipes as my springboards. It’s a creative outlet for pent up energy, even though it takes me ten times longer than the average person to get anything done.

My writing gets done in hiccups. There are so many interruptions, from “Mommy, I need a napkin. I need to wipe up my milk,”  announcements of the attention-demanding Peach to the insistent screaming Grub telling me I’m done with these boring toys: come pick me up! Right! NOW!

Save for a few exceptions, all of the photographs up until June 2011 you see here are taken with a wiggly infant attached to my hip. Just imagine me balancing on tip toes and arms outstretched for my bird’s eye shots with my trusty point-and-shoot camera, leaning to the right for the close-ups so as to avoid the mostly bald baby head in front of me: understandably, I never quite get the frame I want. I delete most of them. Blurry. Fat fingers protruding into the photo frame (example here). If I had a sound track to my blog experience, there would mostly be screeching and whining, and a smattering of giggling.

Here’s an example:   I embark on my homemade tofu project. I am excited. I am ready. I have been thinking about making this for ages. I soak the beans overnight. I read the directions over and over, just to make sure I understand. I line up my equipment the night before. Nothing will stop me. I commence. I try boiling my soybean puree gently, only to find the 2-quart pot size is waaaaay too small as the hot foamy bubbles spill over all over the stove while I have Grub in my arms. I did not pull the pot off fast enough to avoid more spillage, seeing as I’d rather protect my kid from scalding soybean foam over preventing a huge mess all over the stove. I start over. And put Grub into the highchair for as long as he will tolerate. Cheerios and various spatulas end up on the floor, narrowly missing the cat.

Another example, during the writing process:   The kids are playing. The dinner is cleaned up. I sit down to write down a few ideas so I don’t forget them, one eye on the computer screen, one eye on the kids. My mind swims with post ideas: ode to the garden-borne tomatoes? My crunchy oven-baked chicken?  Then the interruptions begin.

“Mommy, can I have a piece of tape?” Food blog idea interrupted. I promptly forget my topic, my deft repartee, and how I was going to incorporate the word “reprobate” into the post. I find a piece of tape for Peach.

I regroup. I write: “My love for tomatoes started when ….” LOUD CRASH. Grub has overturned the baby gate, after deftly toggling the latch and somehow loosening it from the wall. Wailing ensues. Idea 2 interrupted. Peach asks, “What happened?” I save my work and leave the computer. I retrieve Grub, baby gate, and a freaked out cat.

Mostly before I even start a new idea, I’m interrupted. Whatever post-worthy writing I think I might have sudden disappears into the limbo of infant screeches or an excited pre-schooler yelling. Like right now. What was I writing about? After redirecting those behaviors, I try again. Tomatoes….nah, I’m not into it now; writing about the tart will suffice. I’ll try the chicken post later…. Saving this for another time, say 1:00AM when everyone is sleeping deeply, is when my best uninterrupted  writing can occur. And my descent (ascent?) into insomnia begins, the act of writing its catalyst.

It also took me weeks to compose this post because even with the intentional idea of writing about interruptions, I couldn’t stay in one place long enough to do it somewhat cohesively and at one time. This is both ironic and unwelcomingly appropriate. Wait, macaroni and cheese is smeared on the floor…. What was I talking about?

Interruptions. I often start recipes the day before I plan to do them. I may chop vegetables or prepare the mise en place,  bowls piled up on the refrigerator and kitchen counter. I line up equipment. I sometimes read a recipe over and over so it’s so ingrained that I can power through the cooking. I don’t dilly-dally. Oh, wait. Grub is eating paper. Peach is flicking the lights on and off.

I often resort to the Emily Dickinson approach in writing. It is well-known that she wrote whenever inspired, often using scraps of paper or envelopes on which to record her words. I find myself doing the same, scrambling for a scraggly (but almost blank!) envelope on which to scribble a few words in a dimly lit room as the kids fall asleep. Or sometimes I wait for the grocery clerk to slap the 12-inch receipt into my hand, head to the car, and pull out a red ballpoint pen to frantically trying to remember all of my adjectives conjured up from my walk down the freezer aisle.

I’ve been writing for five minutes. Five minutes! No interruptions! But wait. It’s too quiet. What are the children doing? Oh no, the Grub just put a large dust bunny in his mouth, is drooling, and attempting to remove a long strand of hair from his lip as he almost chokes. Peach is dancing around in front of the refrigerator, staring fixedly at the juice with large puppy-dog eyes. I address the now-slimy dust bunny, wash my hands, and am hit with string of requests on the appropriate cup for Peach’s juice. “No, not the yellow cup. I want the pink cup. No, Mommy, with a top on it. I don’t want that  juice. I want the other juice.”

Ten times longer, people. Ten times longer.

Although the quote has been connected to many people, comparing people who cook to mothers who cook while caring for young children and working outside of the home can be summed up like this: “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels.” As difficult as it may seem at times, writing, photographing, and cooking for story of a kitchen  is fun and rewarding. It is a challenge. It is a way to unleash ribbons of energy into something I can be proud of, something to share. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, even if it is backwards and in high heels, tripping up along the way.

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story of a kitchen