It’s been almost 6 months since I last posted, and I have no excuse except that life got busy with the new job, after a year or so of a low-key lifestyle. The difference between life “over there” and “over here” is stark. In Mongolia, I had a small community of friends, limited social activities in a smallish town, and lots of free time to experiment in the kitchen, wander the city, or take a few weeks to head into the countryside. Some things fell by the wayside – my yoga practice wasn’t regular, for example – but I did get a chance to do lots of things I’ve always wanted to do.
The biggest difference, I think, has been in the kitchen. In Mongolia, I got to spend time making things I’d never think about making – so long as I could find the ingredients. And when I couldn’t, I learned to substitute. And when you are forced to make something “imperfect”, and have it turn out ok, I think that slowly starts to penetrate other parts of your life too. Frankly, that’s a lesson this control freak could stand to learn many many times.
But here, we have everything again, and I don’t have to think too hard about making something. In fact, sometimes I don’t have to think about making anything at all, as evidenced by the other day when I ordered baked pasta for delivery. A simple 4-ingredient dish and it was much easier to order in than to go to the store and buy the ingredients and make it myself.
So I’m trying to get back into the habit of cooking, because I like to do so, and because it’s healthier. I’m experimenting in different ways now – instead of trying to figure out substitutes, I’m making creative dishes with disparate leftovers of ingredients before they go bad. The results have been not too bad – putting feta in polenta, brussels sprouts in risotto, persimmon in cookies, candied ginger in bran muffins, parsley and soy sausage with whole wheat pasta, etc. Freezing overripe fruit for smoothies.
The latest attempt tonight was cranberry ginger bran quickbread. The recipe started as muffins, before I realized I only had a small muffin tin. So I used a shallow loaf pan instead, and it baked up beautifully. After it cooled, I sliced it up and have frozen half of it for morning breakfasts (maybe with a little peanut butter?). The cranberries were dried and sweetened, but I might try fresh ones next time. The ginger I candied myself, and keep stored in the fridge in its own syrup (which I added to the recipe).
So here’s hoping this is the start of a new old habit again…