I spent the better part of Sunday making four shepherd's pies — none of which we actually ate on Sunday. Instead, we had homemade pizza: homemade as in I made the dough myself (with the aid of a bread machine; I’m not that hard-core), as well as the sauce. There was a kid pizza, which featured mainly pepperoni, and an adult version, which included caramelized onions and actual, visible, vegetables. Three of the shepherd's pies are now in the freezer; we’re having the fourth one tonight for dinner. I’m experimenting with getting more vegetables into the children by virtue of stealth, so the beef is mixed in with shredded carrots and celery and onion, while the mashed potatoes on top are actually a hybrid of potatoes and cauliflower. I KNOW. I tested out the mixture on Isaac on Sunday, and he thought it was fantastic. Even Rachel, reared in the UK on mashed potatoes, liked them. Heh. (And here is where I resist the urge to go off on a tangent about black-bean brownies.)
I’m telling you this not because I’m showing off — Look at us! Home-cooked meals (featuring local beef) every night! Look at my kids, eating cauliflower! — but because … well, why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this because it’s October, and because I am inordinately drawn, as I am every season, to Cooking with a capital C, big batches of hearty, primal food: soups and stews and casseroles, pumpkin pies and apple crisps, freezer bags stuffed with marinated chicken already on kebabs.
I’m telling you this because I just read “Deliverance,” Lena Dunham’s cutely titled piece on having takeout every night for dinner as a child. “Deep inside,” Dunham writes of her childhood self:
I know that my pathological resistance to homemade cuisine comes from something more than a desire to drain my parents of their financial resources and waste endless quantities of cardboard and Styrofoam. There is something so comforting, so magical, about the meal simply arriving, already smelling like itself, laid out like a road map to satisfaction. I want dinner to be perfect every single day. Sometimes as I eat I do a commercial for what I’m consuming: “Enjoy your day the moo-shu-pancake way! So light and tangy your head will explode.”
And even though we come at it from polar-opposite perspectives, I think that Dunham and I seek the same thing from dinner, something (pardon the pun) meatier than simply food. We (look at me, talking about Lena as though we're best friends, philosophical kindred spirits) looking for sustenance, comfort. Her magical, perfect, dinner comes in the form of a takeout container, whereas I crave freezersful of home-prepared meals, stacked and labelled with masking tape and a Sharpie and all healthy and budget-conscious. “Just order in pizza,” friends will say to me, when I say that I’m tired at the end of the long week, a long day. But I don’t — I can’t. It would have the opposite effect, in any case. The very containers that Dunham craves make me uncomfortable, edgy. I’d rather putter in the kitchen for hours, to the point of a kind of dizzy exhaustion, than order in.
I’m telling you this because what I feel most like doing these days is cooking and organizing and nesting. I lie awake at night, parsing out what’s in the cupboards and in the fridge, excited to come up with a plan that integrates it all, pulls together a meal from the random ingredients just sitting there. Rachel used up an ancient-but-viable jar of curry paste the other day on some pork tenderloins we had in the freezer, and I took a more than healthy pleasure in her resourcefulness, in one more jar emptied and out of the fridge. Each Tupperware container filled and then emptied is a small thrill, and I am telling you this because sometimes I feel sheepish about my deep and abiding attachment to the organization and preparation of my household’s foodstuffs. And so I’m putting it out in the world, because the Internet never judges.
It helps that I’m in a same-sex relationship. I imagine that, were I married to a man, I would find myself resenting or squelching my domestic impulses, second-guessing them as a capitulation to some kind of traditional division of gendered labour. But no. Just me.
I’m telling you this because I’m cold and I’m sleepy each night by five, and because I want to go to bed but I resent getting into my pajamas because I don't want to face chilly air on bare skin. Last night, I got filled a hot water bottle and hugged it to my chest and things got a little bit better. And I fell asleep under a mountain of duvets, knowing that oatmeal was on the stove for today's breakfast and that dinner was prepped and pencilled in on the calendar. And that maybe, after a season of hibernation, I will emerge, wide-eyed and blinking and full of vitamin D and energy, and excited to get out of the kitchen and write again.