Cooking up a calm

Aunt Kay's pumpkin bread

I can always tell when something is hanging over my head because I lose interest in the kitchen. Pickling cucumbers rot in the fridge. I make fewer forays to the vegetable garden for fresh herbs. Dishes crowd the counter with greasy grins. I scale back to the bare minimum food preparation: dinner. This has been the case since a family matter distracted me in mid-August.

We cannot control our feelings; we can only try to give them the best possible environment to progress from pain to resolution. Our emotions are part of us but do not define us. I find it helpful to observe them like a wave washing over. If we cling to unpleasant emotions such as bitterness, we will indeed be bitter. Some people find this surprising.

Harvest is an inconvenient time to lose my culinary creativity, but I know better than to fight the languor. Forcing myself to bake muffins misses the pleasure, so there is no point. Cooking does not clear my mental storms. I have better remedies: more cerebral ways of calming myself while life’s unavoidable dramas play out. Computer games may not be the most productive activity, but at times they keep me sane.

Sometimes in the thick of the storm we do not know where it comes from. I have had that experience in the past. The feelings were overwhelming and persistent. Too many things were wrong.

Progress came when I tackled one challenge at a time. I would choose a simple goal and work on it almost exclusively for two months. As old patterns shifted, I grew in self-confidence. Some of the changes involved limiting my involvement with relationship or circumstances that discouraged me from being my best.

But life cannot be perfect. We must not expect to get our way all the time. To walk away from every unpleasant situation would be irresponsible.

Fortunately, through the recent disturbance I could see a timeline. Certain events needed to pass before I would be able to turn full attention elsewhere. So August became a memory and September passed, too. A basket of cucumbers went to waste and even some peaches, my favourite fruit. Then the time of resolution came. Things happened. In the end calm prevailed.

The next step is to move on. Now the part of me that stands on guard can afford to catch up on sleep.

Sunday morning I baked three loaves of Aunt Kay’s sweet pumpkin bread (above). Five pouches of pureed pumpkin went into the freezer. After lunch I took four pounds of slightly, perfectly overripe Bartlett pears from the fridge and turned them into a wonderfully gingery jam (below). When I spent the better part of day in the kitchen just because I wanted to, I knew peace had returned for the time being. October is a new month and the sun is shining.

Pear ginger jam

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