Sunday, August 2, 2009

No news is good news

Well, it's been a riotous month here. My wife has returned to work, and next week my daughter goes back to school. I've been busy at work; not to the point of becoming stressed, but to the point of being so tired when I did return home, I lacked the necessary energy to post anything.

And really, there's been nothing new here to speak of. I am still in the process of learning about things that grow. I am walking regularly. I still trying to stay aware of what is around me. In short, I am still trying to appreciate this gift of life.

But there is one new thing. I am learning how to cook.

Now, when I type or say the phrase, "I am learning how to cook," it is always with a twinge of guilt that I do not know how to already. The plain fact is that my mother handled all the cooking duties until I moved out in college. When I was on my own, I either ate low-maintenance stuff like peanut butter & jelly sandwiches (which has long been a staple for me), or "heat-and-eats." I simply did not know how to take separate ingredients and combined them with heat to make a dish, and neither did I care to learn.

When I married, naturally, the cooking duties fell to my wife — duties she accepted more or less gracefully. Like many husbands, I have been greeted with the occasional idea that I could cook something for a change, or even just help prepare the meal. And even more occasionally, I would actually step up to the plate and do so. Say, like once a year. Maybe. If I felt like it.

Three weeks ago, I had a revelation (which I seem to be have a lot of lately). As most of you know, I have long been a devotee of the Canadian power trio Rush — to the point that if you asked me to sum up my musical identity in one artist, I would point to them without hesitation. I have seen them in concert 12 times, own every album they have ever released with the exception of three compilation CDs, and can't go for more than a couple months without listening to them. Simply put, I'm an addict.

One of the many great things about Rush is that their drummer, Neil Peart, is not only one of the greatest rock drummers who's ever lived (and that is not just fanboy blarney), but is a pretty durn good writer to boot. Peart posts regularly to his website in a regular column called "News, Weather & Sports." In it, Neil does much of what I do here, only better — he writes about his life. Since he's highly intelligent, impressively self-effacing for someone who's one of the most talented drummers currently walking planet earth, and possessing of a keen sense of humor, he's a genuine pleasure to read. His web site,, has several interesting side features, including Bubba's Book Club, in which he talks about what's been on his reading table; and a new one — Bubba's Bar 'n Grill.

This second feature tackles another of Neil's passions — cooking. Before Neil learned to cook, he was probably more of a heater than a cooker — much like your humble narrator. The Bar 'n Grill feature of his website tells the story of how he learned to cook (a tale definitely worthy of a read), and offers recipes and general information for other Bubbas who, like him, found themselves in the alien environment of the kitchen at age 40. He waxes eloquently about his successes and disasters in the kitchen, and makes a subtle pitch for other "Bubbas" to get in there and try it for themselves. The website features information about the well-stocked kitchen, and gives a few of his favorite recipes at various skill levels for readers to try.

I don't know if was the way I empathized with Peart's fish-out-of-water approach to cooking, the fact that he was about the same age when he learned to cook that I am now, or what — something about the feature spoke to me in a huge way. And for the second time in as many months, a light bulb went off.

So, in addition to being a budding nature lover and gardener, I am now learning how to cook. After a few false starts of stupidly trying to do everything by myself, I have given myself over to the gentle tutelage of my wife, and am happy to be her personal sous chef. Right now, I'm on basic things like chopping, peeling, measuring and mixing things together. At the moment, I'm happy to just starting putting some basic skills under my belt, and it may be a long time before I "solo" on a dish, but if it is, I won't care too much. I have come to find, like hosts of families already know, that cooking, although work, is also fun, and a great way to spend time with your wife.

So far, as a cooking team, we've had a few successes — like the batch of improvised spinach puffs we made from a pasta sauce that wasn't working. We've also had some "back-to-the-drawing-board" experiences — like the salmon filets we made last night that, although made from a fresh cut of meat, didn't quite taste right when we got through with it. But no matter the outcome, it's been great fun, and I've been kicking myself for the time I lost when I could have been doing this.

Ah, well — live and learn.

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