Tofu with spinach and red pepper, in home-made peanut sauce
I work alternate Saturdays, which means I have the Fridays prior to those days off work. This makes for a strange schedule that often confounds attempts to plan weekend getaways, and will likely prove to be even more irritating when more humans are added into the family mix one day. In the meantime, I secretly quite love my Fridays off. They are all mine, to do with as I please, and the most recent one was an example of a more or less perfect day (well, a massage and a butler would have made it utterly perfect, but, well, let’s be realistic).
One of my favourite things to do on a Friday off is cook something elaborate or try a new recipe. I often find myself thinking how sad it is that our frantically busy world more or less prevents anyone from eating properly, or slowly, or truly enjoying the act of cooking a meal on a regular basis. [In the interests of full disclosure, I also work two evenings a week, which really messes with dinner hour]. Fridays off are my chance to push the pause button for a measly 24 hours and re-capture the fun of cooking.
I wasn’t raised in an family of elaborate home cookers. My mother has some fabulous family recipes that she has shared with me, and some of my earliest memories are of helping her bake. During my school years, however, both my parents worked: I remember my father as the more improvisational, “forget measuring” kind of cook. He seemed to relish the chance to play in the kitchen, although he rarely had the time for it. Perhaps I got my love of food from him, since he loved many foods passionately even though his diet was restricted by medication and illness. Despite being under strict orders to avoid salt, I remember him spiriting me away for a plate of fries at a diner once on vacation, with strict orders “not to tell your mother;” I often wonder if this salty taboo explains my tendencies towards savoury over sweet. My mother says I certainly got the habit of drinking a glass of something (in my case, wine; in my father’s case, sherry) while watching over a pot on the stove from him. After his death, the rest of my childhood and youth is a blur of school lunches, harried dinners before my mom’s meetings, interspersed with mother-daughter pizza nights I treasured and the occasional delicious home-made chocolate chip square.
I only came to truly love cooking, however, and to be comfortable enough to experiment with it, in university, via a friend who first introduced me to brie, coffee made in a French press, and sun-dried tomatoes.
In many ways, I still live the life my mother lived (as sure a sign as any that I truly admire her passion and love of her chosen vocation): harried dinners before or after meetings and packed lunches to work (high school tuna salad sandwiches replaced with salad and fruit). Food doesn’t always come first, and it’s sort of tragic, I think, that with the way our weekday world structures itself, there is little room for devotion to a particular meal.
On alternate Fridays, however, food does come first in our house. This past Friday, after a leisurely breakfast and coffee over a novel, I planned my dinner (a mix of tried-and-true potato salad my mother used to make for me, and a new Asian-inspired tofu and veggie stir-fry, since the husband was pining for Asian food). I combined a long jog with a trip to the grocery store, spent the afternoon relaxing and cooking, to have dinner on the table when my tired husband came home.
I would probably get bored with a stay-at-home life on a regular basis, and I am admittedly a workaholic who is devoted to her professional life. Alternate Fridays, however, to be a lady of leisure who shops for the evening’s dinner and meets her husband at the door, are a gift, an homage to an earlier, less busy time, when dinner hour was sacred and meals were prepared with care.