Danny’s gone right now, down in Arizona with his folks. They’ve been ailing, needing a little help. When I talked to him a few moments ago, Danny was in their kitchen, making a big enough vat of tomato sauce to last them through the winter. I don’t begrudge him being gone for the week. We just miss him.
Whenever Danny does go away, I find that I revert back to an older self.
I spend hours writing in a quiet, cold room, without talking to anyone. I bake the salmon for dinner instead of searing it, because I can shove it in the oven and not think about it for a few moments. Without him here to talk the thoughts out of my head, they tumble and bounce against each other loudly.
And when Danny leaves, and I go to the store, I realize again: I’m really a hippie.
People, I bought sprouted mung beans yesterday.
See, the thing is, I naturally gravitate towards all these natural foods. Lemon-tahini dressing on brown rice. Quinoa fritters with bits of red pepper and zucchini. Green smoothies with a bit of chia seeds mixed in. There’s a reason I’ve chosen Vashon as my home, twice now. The groceries in my basket are pretty typical for Thriftway here.
And yet, for years here, you haven’t seen this food. Not always. Not regularly.
It’s a funny thing that happened. I started writing here because I wanted to write. I craved this space to discover. I wrote about amaranth greens and teff porridge. I realized that my life had become what I had hoped, an evocation of the community in Laurel’s Kitchen, which I read as a teenager. I felt unfettered and alive, to quote Joni Mitchell. I was the kind of woman who quoted Joni Mitchell.
But then, people started noticing. I wrote a book, fulfilling a lifelong dream. I dreamed of writing more. People started clamoring for recipes without gluten to suit their needs. I started listening.
That doesn’t mean that I haven’t loved every dish we’ve given you on this site. I have. Because it’s not all flaxseed crackers and hemp milk around here. (I don’t really like hemp milk.) I had to give away the last of the sugar cookies I made for my appearance on the local NPR station on Monday, because I kept nibbling at the rich buttery crispness with frosting and sprinkles. Danny and I bought a pork shank from a pig raised on Vashon the other day, and we’re excited to figure out what we’re going to cook with it.
But in the past few years, I have felt myself pulled toward pleasing. Querulous crowds demanded soft white sandwich bread so we made it again, again and again, until we were happy with it. And now that I’ve figured out the secret? I never make it here. Instead, I’m working on a dark, whole-grain bread that’s a little lumpy because it’s filled with seeds and chia. It doesn’t look airy and fantastic. It’s European bread, dense and nutritious. I don’t eat bread that often anymore but when I do, I like this little dark nub of a bread.
It won’t look good on Pinterest. Can I confess something? I don’t really like Pinterest. I like the chance to see spontaneous moments, photos filled with light that make me feel more alive. I have boards there. It’s a good stress reliever when I have too many emails to answer. But I really don’t like the way Pinterest seems to make so many women feel inadequate.
I don’t think real kitchens look as gleaming as they do on Pinterest. Do they? Maybe some. I remember an episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte winced because her self-confident, brash husband left a used tea bag on her perfect white kitchen counter. I don’t want to be that woman. It seems to me that’s what it takes to have that kind of kitchen. (That and the perfect kitchens seem to be devoid of cooking.)
So the demands of Pinterest and hit counts and driving traffic to the site and the very real desires of so many people across America writing to us, wanting us to re-create the food of their childhoods without gluten, have taken their toll on us.
I’m takin the hippie skirt out of the closet, folks. There are lentils to sprout, squash jam to make, and tofu to marinate. There are also buttered popcorn cookies and gluten-free stollen to bake. “Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large; I contain multitudes.” (I’m still the kind of woman who quotes Walt Whitman.) From now, we’re just cooking whatever we feel like that day and sharing when it feels right.
Today, there was a quiet house with a kiddo at preschool and this lunch. I threw some tofu into a hot wok with coconut oil and peanut oil. I had some leftover roasted sweet potato and broccoli in the refrigerator. I dashed in fish sauce and tamari, a little red chile flakes. I didn’t bother to wipe the plate before I took the photo. It looked beautiful to me. All that light.
It was enough.