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I’ve been on a huge cooking kick. The desire to cook is always fuelled by stress. I guess the academic stress is really starting to pile on. Third year law students are just as susceptible to senioritis as undergraduates in their final year of study. I’ve always known that the academic slacking eventually catches up; I’ve just always chosen to ignore it.
At least I can say I haven’t been completely wasting my time. I’ve been participating in a number of exciting outreach programs, attending various challenging seminars, acting as a student ambassador, proofreading the Annoted Immigration Act, learning from mentors in the field, socializing (not enough, actually), hitting the opera (at our city’s fantastic new opera house)
You all know that I’ve never been a fan of rigid gender roles. No sir, I will not be pigeon-holed into undervalued work. I will, however, embrace the choice to balance my higher education with a little cooking and crafting. I’ll just leave the laundry, the dishes and the scrubbing of the toilet bowl to my partner who actually volunteers to do these things.
Since said partner and I are currently separated by our educational endeavours (which we both chose freely, thankyouverymuch), I’ve regressed a few years. Not only do I sleep in a twin bed in my childhood bedroom (painted pastel colours no less) in my original family home in idyllic suburbia, I usually eat food that my darling mother puts on the table.
Bits and pieces of old school gender roles are at work at my home. Both of my parents work hard outside of the home, but my mother cuts back on her outside work hours to make room for home work. So while I’m (supposedly) doing my homework, my mother does the work ’round the home. And so we’re the kind of lucky family that gets to dine on nutritious and delicious meals made by mother dearest every night.
Typically, my mother makes traditional Chinese (mainly Cantonese) meals. When she’s busier with work and other commitments, she tends to make simpler fare that requires preparation but little active cooking, you know, things like roasts or curries. We don’t switch from steamed long grain jasmine-scented white rice to basmati when the curry is Indian instead of Thai. The rice we serve with Chinese meals gets put onto plates when we eat classic roast beef.
While my mother has been away, I’ve sort of filled her role not because I feel forced to as the only woman in the house but because I’m enjoying the opportunity to use the kitchen as I please. Being a dependent adult child has its many perks (see above description of meals made by mum) but it also means that I have to live by the rules of my parents’ kingdom. Helping my mother in the kitchen is welcome and encouraged, but taking it over (and making a mess) while I indulge my culinary compulsions is not.
So usually when things are “normal”, I confine myself to making stews in the slow cooker for school/work lunches and baking goodies for breakfast and snacks. This allows me to scratch my domestic itch after primetime in the kitchen.
This week, the kitchen has largely been mine. I started to warm up for kitchen duty the night before my mother left, making a batch of banana bran muffins and a loaf of cheese and black pepper soda bread. I wanted to make sure my mother and grandmother had homemade goodies to eat on the plane (in an era of beverage only flights).
I’ve had the joy of roasting winter vegetables (butternut squash, yukon gold potatoes, carrots, red onions, and garlic) to accompany my father’s roast beef. I’ve made tandoori chicken and served it with a side of baingan bharta. Today I revamped my baingan bharta and turned it into a fusion-y vegetarian pita stuffer by adding a can of chickpeas, some more garam masala and a big dollop of creamy tahini. Yum. I love flexing my creativity muscles in the kitchen. Sure, classics are delicious. I dig pure, authentic food as much as the next person; but it’s always fun to mix things up, especially when you are incorporating leftovers in another meal. I remember a feature in the newspaper about the founder of Williams-Sonoma a few weeks ago and thinking that the man had the right idea when he said he liked making a hearty stew and eating it for several days afterwards in different forms. He’d mix things up by adding different vegetables and cooking again.
Tonight, we’re having lamb chops. I think we’re just going to grill them indoors on the cast iron grill pan with some simple seasoning. I’ve never met a rosemary sprig that didn’t get along with a lamb chop. I’m going to be brave and make some brown rice on the side even though I’m sure my dad will prefer the aforemetioned long grain white variety. I wouldn’t normally pair zucchini with lamb but I’m keen on trying a new zucchini pancake recipe and we’ve got loads of zukes lolling around the crisper. Also, I’ve overextended my playtime with this morning’s workout (one hour of weight training and one hour of step aerobics, if you must know) and all my blabbing here so there’s not much time to run out to the grocery store to pick up a more suitable vegetable. Besides, I’ve got leftover beets and squash for extra side fun. My brother, the beet-hater, isn’t here to turn up his nose at the former either.
Off to do a little school work before prepping and eating dinner. The day’s almost spent and there’s so much more to do! Got to make room for Grey’s Anatomy, you know! Happy Thursday, friends!