Here’s something different – something I’ll share with the turn of each season, or maybe monthly. So much of what’s on this blog is me cooking as a way to process and record feelings and life events. Now that our daughter is here, it’s even more important to me to collect these thoughts in one place for her to read, should she want to better understand the woman I am, one day.
And so, here is Cooking/Feeling, volume one: summary of what I’m making, and what’s happening in life, each season. Please let me know what you’re cooking/feeling right now, too.
With a little one so excited about finger foods, I find myself in the kitchen daily… peeling, slicing, steaming, roasting, stewing. She is increasingly joining our family meal, which thrills me, but at eight+ months she mostly has her own menu. Spinach and veggie omelettes, big chunks of soft sweet potato, fasoulia, steamed pear wedges with peanut butter, hunks of banana, beef stew, green beans (her favorite), ground turkey, scrambled eggs, chicken and veggie stew, bolognese, roasted zucchini and oatmeal are on high rotation around here. Spices, too. She adores cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice… a Near Eastern chef in the making.
My neighbor and I have a sort of cake exchange going on. Her daughter is two months younger than mine, and she is also a lover of baking. It’s such a nice way to bond over our shared new motherhood. She brings up a banana bread, I take down a coffee or brownies. Sweet things are in high demand, more than ever in this house. In a past life I would have worried about the effects of such delights on my ever-softening tummy. Not anymore. More on this below.
For Jase and I, simplicity and comfort are key in these colder months. Admittedly, winter in Melbourne is pretty mild – most days the temperature hovers around 13C/56F – but I still use the season as an excuse to make stews, curries, and pasta. One such pasta is a simple angel hair, tossed in a hot pan with olive oil, garlic, tons of chopped parsley (including stems), lemon, dill, and a knob of butter. We often roast some fennel to go with it, or fry zucchini. Sometimes we use quinoa (below). It takes ten minutes and is delightful.
Cups of tea are also plentiful. I always have a coffee first thing in the morning – sometimes two – but the humble hot tea has become my naptime staple alongside whatever work or chores I have to get done in that hour window. It’s almost always a mug of strong rooibos with milk, cinnamon and honey. Cheat’s chai. Pairs well with writing, I find.
I’m not aiming for revolution, as you can see. Watching Nina discover the pleasures (and displeasures!) of the world of food have taken center stage. We’re cooking belly-warming, fun things, though, that I look forward to sharing here soon.
I wrote here last year that our culture – in particular the Internet – demands we present our lives neatly tied together with sparkly bows.
Are you yawning yet?
Life is obviously not like that, thank god, as we’d all perish from acute boredom. 2016 was the opposite of smooth, but it was also hugely affirming. I left my job to be happy and work toward switching fields. Then I became a mother. Nina was born eight months ago, and I’m starting to feel whole again. Her birth transformed and injured me physically in a way I could never have imagined. It pushed me to emotional corners that have, frankly, required extensive therapy. But, my recovery has kicked into high gear now, and I’m proud of myself. We are both thriving and are in a very sweet, fun phase.
I’ve also made a conscious effort to reclaim Yasmeen, The Individual. My prognosis immediately after birth was depressing, leaving me feeling more a patient than a mother. My expectations of myself were shattered; the subsequent months brought unforeseeable physical challenges on top of the enormity of 24/7 physical and emotional care of a newborn. Slowly, though, my strength and confidence grew, and so did my satisfaction and contentment with my new responsibilities.
I always deeply loved my baby, from the minute I knew we were expecting her. But it took transitioning completely away from the hospital system to independence at home for me to fall madly, obsessively in love with my child and feel free to appreciate motherhood. I met compassionate specialists and did the work. I learned to lean on my husband and accept his unrelenting help. In a flash, my newborn had become a rolling, crawling little person with strong opinions and a need to play and discover on her own. With persistence and structure, she recovered from her allergy. I became more of the mother I wanted to be. We found our groove. I am so proud of all three of us for getting through it all together.
These eight months have reminded me that we are under no obligation, in most cases, to invite unnecessary negativity into our lives. More than ever, I don’t bother doing things out of guilt or because I ‘should’. I am clearer and less apologetic about how I feel, and I set important boundaries. I tune out a lot of junk on the internet, the news, and in general conversation. I don’t let other people’s choices determine how I act. I feel increasingly better about my body, which behaves differently and requires gentler care since giving birth (a stark contrast to my very active and confident pregnancy). Of course, there are some annoying tasks we all have to do. I’m talking about extracting myself from situations that depreciate self-belief. Why bother, when we can rearrange the modest allotment of headspace we are given in a kinder, less paranoid way?
I’m proud to say I am still an utterly imperfect, work-in-progress human. I haven’t mastered the skills above – I’m learning. I’ve had a taste of advancement, though, after seismic personal change, and feel firmly planted in the ‘more is more’ camp. I wonder what these updates will look like next season? I wonder what I’ll be cooking, and what that will mirror in life. And, I wonder what you’re cooking/feeling. Tell me.