Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ideal Day


It’s easy to be negative about our own lives.  For example, I occasionally read about other (usually younger) people who are already getting published or winning contests, or what have you, and I feel a little twinge of jealousy.  I think:  it would be nice to be in their shoes right now.

However, so that we don’t all turn into raving, jealous maniacs, life is set up to give us all occasional good times.  Indeed I was not published at the age of twenty, but still I have wonderful days, and at the end of them I think, “This is what life as a writer should be like.”

Today was a day like that.  Let me show you how it went.

9:00 am:  Breakfast, which is my favorite meal of the day.  It’s always light and energizing; it always tastes good and, best of all, there is coffee!

Who can resist?
9:45:  I’m making Mexican food tonight, which means the beans have to be started early.  I pick through them to sort out any broken ones, put them in a pot on the stove with onions and water, and set them to simmer away merrily for as long as they like.  Three cheers for slow-cooking, low-maintenance food! 

10:00:  I’ve had a deep desire to eat cinnamon buns lately, so I pull out the necessary ingredients.  Making the dough for them is so satisfactory.  A random assortment of ingredients go together and then, tada! they produce a perfect, homogenous mass of deliciousness.  Baking is actually singularly like writing a novel, I realize.  Maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m so fond of cooking and other kitchen activities!

10:30:  My main dish for dinner is served at room temperature, so I can do all the cooking in the morning, and have my afternoon free – a delightful thought!  I start preparing the beef.  It has to be shredded for my dish (Salpicón - a word that rejoices in the translation ‘hodgepodge’) so it also slow-cooks for 45 minutes, which leaves me with 20 minutes to start editing some writing from last week.

11:00: A timer rings, so I pause my editing to discover a pillow of beautifully-risen dough waiting for me in its bowl.  I roll it out, brush it with butter and sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar, before rolling it up, slicing it, and packing it into a baking pan.  I think about spirals and how I've loved the shape ever since my college roommate, Vasnefy, and I planned out a whole science-fiction world where time operated on a spiral.  The shape seems to me the perfect balance between the motion of a line and the unity of a circle. 

Mexican food
The unassembled hodgepodge!
11:15:  The meat is ready, so I take it off the heat while I’m finishing the cinnamon rolls.  It cools in its broth and then…it has to be shredded.  Shredding two pounds of London broil is not exactly my cup of tea, but hey – it’s worth it for the end results.  Once that chore is done, the rest of the hodgepodge gets mixed in, and I leave it to marinate in its own deliciousness until dinner. 

12:00:  The beans are coming along, so I add salt and a bit of cilantro, give them a good stir, and then clean up the kitchen.  In the midst of that, the cinnamon buns pop in to be baked and I start my laundry for the week.  It’s a good feeling to have accomplished this much by midday.  

12:20: The buns emerge looking appetizing, and I consider having one for lunch, but resist the temptation.  They are meant for tomorrow’s breakfast, since my Friday schedule is going to be crunched. 

1:00:  The kitchen is squared away, the beans are happily simmering, so now it’s time for some more editing.  I work for half an hour, completing a whole chapter of my novel-in-progress.

1:30:  Lunch-time, followed by another once-over for the edited chapter.  I write emails, shift laundry to the dryer, fold and hang it, check the beans periodically, and finally make my bed.  I have an excuse for leaving it unmade for so long, though:  I decided today had to be sheet-washing day.    

3:00:  The beans are done at last:  I didn’t rush them at all, and they are soft and perfect for refrying just before dinner.  I feel proud of myself, since this is the first time I’ve tried my hand at refried beans from scratch.  It’s deeply satisfactory to know you can do something for yourself, rather than relying on a can from the grocery store.  To reward myself for a job well done, I start some preliminary writing for this blog post.

5:00:  After an hour of writing and another of reading, internet-browsing, and photo-editing, it’s time to make some frosting for the cinnamon rolls.  They are delectable on their own, of course, but I never say no to the chance to smooth on a dollop of cream-cheese frosting.  Frosting is to cinnamon-rolls as illustrations are to a story: not essential, but always welcome to us creatures of the senses.

Mexican Food
Salpicón of Beef!
6:30:  I put the final touches on dinner (guacamole! refried beans!).  Then my family arrives and we eat.  Gin-and-tonics are had by all, creating (as gin-and-tonics will) a most convivial atmosphere. My glamorous hodgepodge is universally declared a success.  Finally there are dishes, goodnights and now, at 9:30, I find myself in my room, content and ready to do a little more writing to round off my day. 
  
The story was long, but the moral of it is that sometimes, even in very simple circumstances I can enjoy myself perfectly.  I may not be published or commercially successful, but still I can have utterly satisfying days, in which I exercise all of my creative abilities, whether over the stove top or at my desk. 

Smetimes we don’t have to scramble around looking for our balance.  Instead it simply creates itself out of the materials at hand.

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