Today was my first day back at work after two weeks vacation. It was difficult getting back on a structured schedule. I was really enjoying getting up whenever I wanted and then doing whatever I wanted for the whole day. I have no problem occupying myself for hours upon hours of time. Of course, the "doing whatever I want" part typically requires some money, even if it is just buying a double shot soy latte to sip while I sit in the sun in Davis Square reading my book, or getting some veggies at the farmers market to try some new recipes. There are also the larger expenses, like paying rent to have a place to put my bed so I can sleep till whenever I want, or purchasing plane tickets to have an adventure in Oregon. Because of this, I'm not anticipating being deliberately unemployed at any time in my near future, but I have begun daydreaming of ways to have something other than a five day work week and be financially stable.
More on that at another time. Right now I'm still trying to relish in all the little spontaneous things I was able to do during my unstructured time. One day, it was disgustingly hot and humid. I was too hot to ride my bike or run, and there's not really any good place close by to go for a swim. So, I decided for an urban method of cooling off: going to the movie theatre. I'm sure this used to be much more popular before central air conditioning was commonplace, but since we don't have this modern creature comfort, and I don't get to the movies enough, it was a good excuse to do just that.
I saw Jules and Julia. It's about an almost 30 woman, feeling a little lost and like her career is meaningless, so she takes on a self-imposed challenge to cook all 500 recipes in Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking over the span of a year, and to keep a blog recording her experiences. At the same time, it tells the story of how Julia Child got her start in cooking. It was a cute movie. It made me cry a lot, but it wasn't sad. I just seem to cry at almost anything these days. It did resonate with me in several ways (e.g. cooking blog) and I had just booked a trip to Paris the day before so it was fun watching the scenes of Julia living in the City of Lights.
It made me wonder when exactly I started to enjoy cooking, and what it is I like about it. There was no particular turning point. It's not something I had a love or talent for at a young age, and I'm still not a very good cook. But I do enjoy it. I like chopping - I find it relaxing. I like the creative aspect, rummaging around in the cupboards and fridge to find some things to toss together for a tasty meal. Mostly, I like being healthy, and doing this by eating fresh unprocessed foods as much as possible.
I've come a long way from my start of being a vegetarian over 20 years ago. In the beginning, I really had no idea what I was doing and was pretty much just a carbivore and even the carbs I ate weren't good choices. I didn't look or feel very healthy. I remember one meal I used to make a lot: chopped up potatoes, cooked in the microwave, white minute rice, and iceberg lettuce salad, all with fat free ranch dressing on it. Ewwwwwww. This was in the no fat craze days. Eventually I started realizing that my blood sugar was all whacked out and this wasn't the best way to eat. Then, I got some cookbooks and would follow everything step by step, afraid to veer from the directions. Over time, I learned better what went with what, figured out some good sources of protein, started experimenting, and tried to eliminate things like high fructose corn syrup from my diet.
Anyway, here I am today eating whole grains and beans pretty much every day and still learning a lot. That's another thing I enjoy- no matter how much you cook, there's always more foods and ways of cooking to explore. Here's a new quinoa recipe I made the other day. It's got adzuki beans in it, which I like to eat because they're even higher in iron than black beans and chickpeas (my other favorites). This recipe is simple and light, good for a summer's day. I think you could add some feta for a heartier type salad.
1 cup quinoa, rinsed in a sieve
2 cups water
2 medium ripe yellow tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 can adzuki beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch parsley chopped (leaves only)
3 tblsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tblspns fresh lemon juice
fresh ground pepper
1. Boil the water in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa and some salt, cover reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed.
2. Place the cooked quinoa in a large bowl to cool. Add tomatoes, onions, beans, parsley and cilantro.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, some salt, pepper, and lemon juice combine with salad. Chill for an hour then serve.