Chaos in the Kitchen & The High Order of Making Dinner

The biggest obstacles to cooking meals are fabricated notions of what the experience should be; most of our heads swim with images of idyllic cookery produced by magazines and television networks (and now even food bloggers) where the set is beautifully propped and orderly with ingredients pre-measured and prep surface pristine.  The end product is hero.  At the same time, we are entertained by the high drama of the reality cupcake bake off TV show - which my friend's husband won recently, by the way.  It's called reality TV, but even here the pantry is stocked beyond imagination; no worries if one should hanker to put beets in 1000 cupcakes - they're there for you.

Eckhart Tolle writes in his book The New Earth, "The mind is more comfortable in a landscaped park because it has been planned through thought; it has not been grown organically.  In the forest, there is an incomprehensible order that to the mind looks like chaos."  I liken the landscaped park to the way most people are comfortable cooking and the forest to the reality of 5 - 7 p.m.;  people coming and going (irritable from traffic), homework going on, phone conversations, plans, forms to be signed, a ride needed, the dog to be walked, the children hungry, dinner to be made.  On the surface appears to be chaos.  But take a deep breath, open the pantry, imagine the kind of meal you would like to eat and experience a higher order, much like that of the forest, which lets dinner come together with ease.

It does not have to be perfect.  It does not have to be planned.  With your pantry even modestly stocked there's the opportunity for improvisation and cooking not just delicious, but really fabulous and simple everyday meals.  The only other thing you need is little imagination and the ability to wipe away those notions of how it should come together and what the end result should be.

Living in the moment is a goal becoming increasingly popular.  Extend this idea to cooking - using the senses of taste, touch and smell - and you have perhaps the best kitchen tool of all for meeting the high order of making meals from scratch day after day.

The Spring Fingerling Potato and Leek Tart I was preparing just last night resorted to becoming a more mainstream Ham and Cheddar Tart in progress - as the shell was par baking - due to timing and schedules.  (I will add, due to a lack of planning and energy on my part, the tart dough did not get its recommended 1 hour chill in the fridge or a lining of parchment during the par bake.  The crust was wonderful, which proves only that the more you cook the more you know which steps can be skipped in a pinch.)  Most importantly, our family ate dinner together.  We discussed what unfolded during the day;  disappointing news, orchestra rehearsal, an upcoming party.  The tart was delicious, a little fruit salad on the side, and the meal pleasurable.

The fingerling potatoes will instead by used tonight with a Sherry Basted Pork Tenderloin.  I'll set a few aside for another attempt at the fingerling potato and leek tart later in the week.