Surviving season of mayhem through simplicity
In cooking, as in life, there’s a season for everything. There’s a season for crafting fine cuisine, with ingredients sourced from the local farmer’s market. And there’s a season for microwaving frozen dinners from Trader Joe’s. There’s a season for feeding crowds. And there’s a season for parties of one. There’s a season for spending hours in the kitchen. And there’s a season for spending 15 minutes readying a simple meal.
Right now, even 15 minutes feels generous to me.
Over the last 18 months, I’ve taken on more than any sane person should, attempting to write multiple books, restore a three-story, 128-year-old house, and start a family with my husband. With the latter hope still eluding us, we’ve moved on to adoption, with all the madness that entails, from running the gauntlet of a home study to solving the housing problems of birth parents living 3,000 miles away.
In the midst of all the “crazy,” cooking fancy food and hosting impressive dinner parties has fallen by the wayside. These days, if you come to my house for dinner, prepare yourself for pizza night.
But that’s okay. That’s how life goes. There’s great joy in cooking and baking and serving the people we love. But, there’s also great joy in not having nervous breakdowns. If simplifying things in the kitchen can add to our sanity, it’s okay to lean into that, knowing that someday, this season, too, shall pass.
Over the last year, I’ve made my peace with this. I still try to keep our diet healthy; nourishment remains the basic goal. I also still try to have friends and family around our dinner table… although I have no shame in serving pizza…or skipping the meal altogether and just serving wine and cheese. But beyond that, I’m surviving through simplicity.
In practice, this means that on some weeknights, we take advantage of delivered meal kits. For our family of two, services like Blue Apron enable us to have delicious dinners, without the stress of meal-planning, shopping, and hours in the kitchen. On other nights, we hit “start” on the rice cooker, roast some veggies with garlic, oil, and salt, and pretend we’re vegan. Just as often, I dip into my arsenal of simple recipes (like the Bacon & Egg Salad featured here) that make me feel like I’m spending more time in the kitchen than I am.
All those tricks help. So too does knowing that someday, this season of crazy will end, and the days of risotto and fine wine will return. That might take a while—especially if God answers those prayers for a baby. But, that will be yet another season, and like all of them—each in their own way—a blessed one.
EMILY STIMPSON CHAPMAN is the author of The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet. She blogs at TheCatholicTable.com.
Bacon & Egg Salad
Prep time: zero minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Instructions: In a large frying pan, cook bacon until desired level of crispness; drain on paper towels. Once it’s cool to the touch, roughly chop.
While the bacon cools, heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan; when it’s hot enough to make water sizzle, crack two eggs into the pan. Fry until the whites are set, but the yolks are still runny. While the eggs cook, divide the greens, walnuts, and goat cheese between two plates. Add chopped bacon. When the egg is just done, flip it onto the greens, so that the yolk runs on the lettuce. Drizzle olive oil onto the salad and add just a pinch of salt. Serve warm.