August 22, 2014
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Spent the evening in the kitchen making just about everything I felt like making, summer comfort food mostly: crockpot scalloped potatoes, broccoli salad, meatloaf filled with green peppers and Monterey jack cheese, sugar cookie cutouts shaped like sunflowers and some simple circles, all of which I frosted yellow and - on the plain circles -- sprinkled sugar into smiley faces.
It was busy work, and lighthearted, something to give my spirit a little kick in the pants. And it worked. I found myself smiling over and again, and humming "Just As I Am", and singing the song Farmer Hoggett sings in the movie, "Babe." "If I had words to make a day for you / I'd sing you a morning golden and true / I would make this day last for all time / And fill the night deep in moonshine..."
People ask me why I like cooking and baking so much. It's necessary, for one thing. It's a practical, productive way to spend time. And there's creativity involved, and forethought; organization and planning. I cook and bake because I love the kids and Mr. S and my neighbors and my friends, and it's one way to show that love, I guess. (Though there's nothing unloving about heating up a frozen pizza or heading out for Chinese takeout or sending flowers.) It's familiar to me, too, and comfortable. I can be a bit mindless in ways, and lose myself in it and not think so hard, or think about different things, and there's an end result that is often delightful. Not always, but often.
Our oldest daughter, the one heading out in a few short days, the one who is less than a year from what has been called "entering the real world" after she graduates from college, was doing some baking of her own last night. My birthday is coming up, just as school begins, and the kids will all be immersed in things schoolish, and Mr. S will be up in Canada, and she wants to ensure that I'm properly celebrated, so she made me a cake. No ordinary cake, mind you. This cake is a layered festival of chocolate: cake, ganache, crispy crumbles of dark chocolate. A cake to behold. She hummed as she worked, and at one point, she laughed out loud. "What is it?" I called from the chair by the window. "I'm just so happy," she said. I looked over at her. There was frosting on her chin, and her eyes were shining.
It's a kind of arrival, I think, in the midst of a world full of challenges and stresses and news stories that leave a person without words; in the midst of a life unfolding, with all its attending questions and issues and uncertainties, to have it in you to pause a while and bake a cake and laugh out loud for no reason other than happiness rising on up. Makes me feel better about dropping her off and driving away. She knows how to bake a cake, and can find, in the making, a measure of delight.
An aunt of mine brings a crock of these potatoes to family reunions now and then, and it's always empty before the sun sets. Goes with anything a person might grill or cook up on a summer day, and perfect with a roast in the winter.
Easy Crockpot Scalloped Potatoes
8-10 medium potatoes
8 oz of sour cream
1 can of mushroom soup (could use potato or cream of chicken soup)
1 T dehydrated onions
1 T Worcestershire Sauce
8 oz finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 -2 oz of bacon bits, store bought or home fried
Mix sour cream, soup, onion and Worcestershire in a large bowl. Thinly slice potatoes and add to mixture. (If potatoes are cut too thick the dish will take much longer to cook.) Spray crockpot with oil. Spread half of the potato mixture into crockpot. Sprinkle on bacon bits followed by cheese. Add second layer of potatoes. Finish with another layer of bacon bits and cheese. Cover and cook on high 4-7 hours, depending on crockpot.