How do you beat an extra bad case of the blues?
I used to turn to retail therapy, singing loudly (and tunelessly) in the shower, writing angsty poetry etc but I find that nothing helps as much as cooking and baking.
There is something immensely comforting and therapeutic in pounding dough, cutting, chopping, measuring that makes me – for just those few hours – forget everything that is hurting me in my life.
Maybe it has something to do with how ingredients never let you down – you measure and cut exact amounts, and they give you results. Or maybe its the feeling of taking together so many things that aren’t much on their own but through the magic of your own hands, become something delicious.
Whatever it is, it helps. Shutting myself away in the kitchen, humming Chet Baker under my breath as I steam, fry, and toast my sadness into submission – in any case after all that culinary kung fu I’m usually so tired I can’t even stay awake long enough to get emotional again.
Today has been a good day, though ! After a week-long 24 hr vigil, my brother Mark, my helper Yati and my aunts were so moved to see my grandfather open his eyes and squeeze our hands this morning. It has been a bad weekend for him – he was frustrated by his itching skin, and stopped trying to communicate altogether, getting feverish and coughing uncontrollably from a lung infection.
I broke down on Sunday when I told him I knew how hard it was and that I loved him, and he cried, tears pushing their way from underneath his tightly shut eyelids and streaming down his face.
At that moment, I felt so, so heartbroken for my grand dad that I couldn’t speak for choking up. I imagine him unwilling to open his eyes to the truth that he is bedridden, unwilling to wake up to a world where he cannot say even the simplest word and has to be fed canned nutrients through a tube. And there is nothing I can do but be there for him and hold his hand as he fights his way back into the strong, mobile, independent man I have known all my life.
When I go home, I try to push aside my sadness and find strength from something else. I bake and I cook, pushing out the pain and filling myself up with love so I can bring a smile to him again the next morning.
I made lavender scones – which turned out to look more like soft lavender butter buns because I over kneaded the dough a little and didn’t use cookie cutters. I still liked them anyway – with their crusty armor and soft insides, it’s hard not to love a misshapen scone (I know I sound insane, but there you have it – I experience life through baked goods).
For maximum enjoyment, slather with clotted cream and tea jelly, munch, close your eyes in bliss, and tell yourself that all is not lost.
Then I found some sweet corn in the icebox and decided that we would have Corn Muffins for breakfast.
Voila, two-bite corn muffins a la Kenny Rogers! They were just little morsels of joy – golden, cute, buttery and kissed with honey, the crunch of corn meal and caramelized sugar on the crusty sides and juicy, heavy corn kernels inside.
I served them with bacon and some oeufs en cocotte (creamed, truffled eggs in ramekins – world’s best hangover cure) for breakfast, and K was happy. ^^
Oeufs en cocotte are my favourite way to have eggs.
I mean, sometimes nothing hits the spot like two flash fried eggs with soya sauce in a bowl of rice, but for those days where you need a little nurturing, a little luxe and a little purity, nothing beats oeufs en cocotte.
Here’s my recipe:
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees celsius.
Rub your ramekins with butter, in the meantime, set your kettle to boil.
Break an egg into each ramekin. Add a tablespoon of cream into each ramekin, and then 1/4 teaspoon of flaky salt (maldon or kosher), followed by another 1/4 teaspoon of good quality white truffle oil.
Pour boiling water into a baking pan until half full, then carefully place each ramekin into the baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes.
Serve with toast soldiers or muffins !
Finally for dinner, I just tossed something quick together for K and I to eat in front of the TV (our first dinner at home the past week, the rest of our meals were had in hospital)
Fresh, creamy smooth guacamole with white tortilla strips, buttermilk chicken tenders with a crispy cornmeal coating, and a whole head of broccoli blanched and then flash fried with garlic. So satisfying I wonder why I decided to stop cooking at home so much !
But the best balm to my soul ?
Naps with my darling Benjy – we don’t need words – he just seems to know when I need a hug and comes over for a cuddle, pushing his sleek little head under my arm and making soft whining noises in sympathy.