The Perfection in Imperfect Cooking

Today, I made six awesome cinnamon rolls.

It was a recipe I had made multiple times before as part of our Friday Treats morning tradition. But this batch was different. The texture. The feel.

They were perfectly imperfect.

The biggest change I made in this batch was how I rolled out the dough. In fact, I didn’t roll out the dough at all. I used my hands to stretch, pull and flatten out the cinnamon dough instead of the rolling pin. It was lumpy and more of a quad-rangle than a rectangle.

I have learned that there is a magic in the less than perfect execution in the kitchen. In fact, it is the imperfections that offer the biggest punch of flavour.

About a year ago, I purchased a cookbook for Indian cuisine. The ingredients for many of the recipes include whole seeds or pods. They aren’t chopped or ground, but added whole into the pan. When you eat the dishes, each bite is a bit different than the initial one. Different seeds and pods combine to offer a different flavour experience with every bite.

Awesome. It’s like every bite says, “Here, try this. You are going to love this.” And I do. We all do. We want to be surprised, curious.

In order to get to awesome, I have to let go of easy. Of consistency. Of perfection.

Letting go of perfection allows for a unique culinary experience. We watch shows that center around creating the perfect dish with random ingredients. We scroll through drool-worthy images on our devices. We are obsessed with perfection when the magic is often in the less than perfect dishes.

In fact, the true magic of a great meal is in the company.

It is because of this experience that I stopped using a press and begun roughly chopping garlic for marinara or soups. I use a knife and not the microplane for adding a dash of ginger. I roll out the dough for cinnamon rolls with my hands.

It’s not perfect. And that is what makes it so.

Conversations with My Eight-Year-Old Self

There are days when things don’t go my way. There are days that I am off and would be better if I started my morning all over again. There are days where I can’t pinpoint exactly what is wrong but it feels that way.

My younger sister Heidi and I.

These are the days that I have a conversation with my eight-year-old self.

For some reason, imagining a conversation with a younger me has always been a great way to put a different spin on the situation. To see my current routine through the eyes of a child.

For instance, here is the latest one I had after a day of roasting coffee, grocery shopping and cleaning our vacation suite:

Me at 43: Today I went to the store to buy groceries for dinner.

Me at 8: With the magic card?

43: My debit, yes.

8: Did you buy Reece’s Pieces for dinner with the magic card?

43: Um, no. Tofu and broccoli.

8: . . . Tofu . . . Is that another word for Reece’s Pieces?

43: No. It’s a form of protein.

8: Like peanut butter . . .

43: Yes.

8: In Reece’s Pieces.

43: . . . Annnnnnd, then I cleaned the vacation suite.

8: To earn money for Reece’s Pieces.

43: Sure. Why not?

It became obvious that I have let down my 8-year-old self that dinners didn’t consist of any form of Reece’s Pieces. I guess I didn’t realize how obsessed I was with the candy as a child. Or perhaps the lesson learned here is that maybe my daily routine needs to incorporate a bit more impulsive behavior.

Either way, my eight-year-old self has decided not to become an adult at all. Especially since Reece’s Pieces becomes tofu.

Hope (Or Why I love Baking)

Mix. Stir. Bake. Cool. Eat.

It’s a basic recipe for everything and anything that comes out of the oven. But it’s not the basics that have the world turning their ovens up to 350 degrees and reaching for the sourdough starter.

It is hope. The secret ingredient in every creation that comes out of our kitchen.

I always knew that focusing on the cups and teaspoons helped my anxious mind. It gave me something to focus on; almost meditative in the flow and gentle whirl of the mixing machine. It’s calming to an oddly, ironic way to hit a snag or missing ingredient and tap into my troubleshooting self to find a workaround.

But the real magic is when I take my creation, in its raw state, and put it in the oven. Whether it is muffins, bagels, or homemade pizza, there is hope. Hope that the kitchen will soon smell amazing. Hope that all of the acids, leaveners, and spices play nice. Hope that what I have measured, stirred, and whipped will be fantastically yummy.

I think that is why so many people have turned to the Internet for how-to videos and recipe blogs. It is more than they have time and a bag of flour on their hands. They need to feel like they are creating something to share with others . . . hope.

Keep baking. Keep creating. Keep your hope rising.

PS: Here are just a few pictures from our latest kitchen endeavours!

Meditation: How I Gained Control By Letting Go During COVID-19

1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4.

1 . . . 2 . . . 3. . . 4.

For years, I have used my breath as a go-to tool when I feel the first pings of an anxiety attack coming on. It was something I did to focus my runaway thoughts on simply counting my breath in and out. It was a handy tool, like a hammer, that I reached for when I needed to nail down my growing anxiety.

I always knew that breathing or, taking it a step further, meditation daily would help me. I knew that. Somewhere. It wasn’t until COVID-19 that I actually started to practice it.

Ironically, I turned to meditation and the art of letting go of the control of my thoughts when I was seeking to gain control of my thoughts and emotions. I know. Read that again.

At the start of COVID-19, there was panic and misinformation streaming into my handheld device from my social media feed to news outlet. I was feeling overwhelmed by the barrage of input coming into my life. I felt the need to acquire data, information, and best practices from all sources I can. I believe that we can only make better decisions by extending our circle of knowledge and diversifying our input.

Wear a mask. Don’t wear a mask. Social distance. Stay home. Essential visits. Support local. Freedom versus fear.

I couldn’t read the overnight “damage report” without walking away with a sense of rage (at best) or a prevailing feeling that the whole world is going to hell in a gloved handbasket. Mask optional for the ride.

It was then that my husband and I started talking about meditation as a way for us to learn how to let go of thoughts or emotions that were overriding our lives. A way of taking control but letting go.

Today, I reached the 21st day straight of daily meditation. In the first three weeks, I have learned:

  1. I CAN ONLY CONTROL MY ACTIONS AND REACTIONS

    Getting fired up over a Facebook post or the misdirection of a news article is my decision. Reading that is my decision. I can’t change someone’s opinion or perspective unless they want to change — and a few sentences on a Facebook post isn’t the place. Instead, I can acknowledge my thought and sit with my anger, resentment, guilt, shame or joy . . . and let it go. I can choose not to read every article or post. That is within my control.

  2. WE ACTUALLY LIKE TO ENGAGE OUR RAGE

    Letting go was a bit like withdrawal at first. My emotions felt flat because I wasn’t hitting these extreme highs and lows. I wasn’t getting the chemical fix that comes from a “like” (or what I call useless Internet points). I almost missed being pissed off — and then something happened.

  3. PRESENT IS A GIFT

    Once I stopped being wrapped up in what someone said or how I should respond, I stopped living in a world of “shoulds” and started living in the moment. I started noticing the magic in the present. My husband and I have deepened our connection because we are present with each other — out minds and emotions.

  4. GAINING CONTROL BY LETTING IT GO

    I have always handled emotions or thoughts like the operator at a switchboard. Something would come to my attention and immediately routed to my response, which was often rage, defensiveness, snarky, whatever. However, my switchboard operator has stepped up her job description. When a “call” comes in, it is examined to find the root cause, what I am feeling if it is something I can control, and then either rerouted to the appropriate department for action or hung up on.

Crazy couple of weeks.

That tool I used to keep for emergencies has shined a light on the beauty of every day in just 10 minutes a day. I’m more present with my thoughts and emotions; thus, I am more present with the people who matter to me.

So, how does one get started? Here are a few of my favourite apps:

  1. Headspace
  2. Simple Habit
  3. Waking Up

Even just a few moments of sitting there, acknowledging your thoughts helps. I think of the Nintendo game “Duck Hunter.” When a thought enters my mind, “there it is” and I point a bright orange plastic thing at it. However, it usually disappears on its own.

 

 

Embracing Imperfect: How I Figured Out What EVERYONE Has Been Saying

Have you ever had that moment when the stars align, the tarot cards deliver and the lotto has your number? Or more importantly, that one moment where something you have heard YOUR ENTIRE LIFE finally sinks in?

Yeah. I had one of those just this week.

Continue reading “Embracing Imperfect: How I Figured Out What EVERYONE Has Been Saying”