Friday, February 12, 2010

Slow Food and a Writer's Time

Last week was all about basking on a Caribbean beach. Seventy-seven degrees, teal water, crocodiles on the golf course. Reading for pleasure(!) A little writing, but very little. Not just travel this time, but a vacation from writing. Usually travel still involves work, at least for a few hours a day. Maybe a signing thrown in. After all, gotta take advantage of opportunities, and the deadlines always loom.

Instead, this was a real break between writing the sketchy first draft of my work in progress and the next stage of honing that draft into something logical and readable. That chunk of time enabled me to come back to the work with energy and enthusiasm -- and a fresh perspective. I am SO doing that again for future projects.

Returning from vacation always means a scramble to catch up. Laundry, all those emails languishing in my inbox, Facebook, grocery store, checking in with friends and family. Add to that the considerable writing workload that awaited, and I questioned the time and effort I usually put into cooking around here. Surely a take out pizza would require less time than making one from scratch. And the Vietnamese place down the road is pretty good. Right?

But after a week of eating out we just didn't want any more restaurant food. The truth is, cooking what might be thought of as slow food doesn't have to take that much time -- my time, that is. So the first night back we tucked into the pedestrian comfort meal of fork-tender roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy and green beans. The chuck roast (local grass fed goodness) went in the pressure cooker with pungeant onions and sweet carrots from the CSA share and some homemade beef stock from the freezer. The russets, also from the share, cooked on another burner. Frozen wax beans from last summer's garden received a quick steam and toss with butter. Everything took about an hour.

An hour? Some would still consider that a lot of time. But while the pressure cooker was rocking away and the potatoes were boiling on their own, I mixed up a sourdough pizza crust for the next night, grated cheese, sliced sausage, mushrooms and olives. Dinner for day two was prepped. I also took out a rack of baby back ribs and a container of baked beans from the freezer to thaw, and mixed up a spicy rub. So for the next two nights, dinner only took about 20 actual minutes of my time.

The pizza dough hunkered in a bowl on the counter all the next day, an alive mass, fermenting and growing. I kneaded it a couple of times while on the phone to agitate the gluten. Later, while the pizza got all burbly and brown in the oven I tossed together a quick salad.

On day three, the ribs sat in a foil pouch in the fridge, basking in their rub for several hours before I dowsed them with orange juice and put them into a low oven to braise for another three. All that remained was to heat up the baked beans and steam some frozen garden broccoli. Meanwhile, I went about my day, filling my writing quotas and checking items off my to-do list like a mad woman.

Nothing gourmet. But mostly local and organic, and all good. And yes, much of this "convenience" came from a well-stocked freezer. I'll be writing more about that in future posts.

And tonight? Leftovers!

It's nice to be home.