Things I do that aren't writing.

Some people buy themselves "goal jeans." I designed myself a goal website, thinking a shiny new home for my thoughts would actually inspire me to get them down.

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a ‘what-the-hell’ attitude.
— Julia Child

But the jeans rarely end up fitting — hanging in the closet as an enduring reminder of diets gone awry — and here my site sits, festering. (Fun fact: Probably 4 of the past 5 posts I've written have in some way been about the fact that I don't write anymore. What a tired device.)

I wear it as a badge of honor that for the most part, my computer sits idle on weekends, collecting dust and cat hair while I live my life around it for two full days, blissfully unaware the pings and notifications that await me on the opposite side of its closed lid.

And at the end of a work day, I turn off my screen and stride triumphantly from the office. I am satisfied I haven't chucked the computer out the window at some point between the hours of 9 and 5.

Truthfully, these days there are about 473 things I'd rather be doing than writing. And some days, I actually do them.

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I cook.

Last Sunday, I dogeared cookbook pages and ripped out magazine recipes. After my husband left for another weekend day of work — part of the preparations to open a new wine bar in Andersonville — I wrenched a rickety hand cart out of the hall closet and pulled it behind me to the grocery store. I ravaged the produce section and butcher, then walked the aisles to find bags of pasta, cans of beans and tomatoes.

I dragged home $107 worth of supplies and settled in for a long afternoon of cooking.

Beef stew went in the crockpot; white bean, tomato and pearl barley soup sat on the stove in a Dutch oven. Jambalaya with local sausage and chicken breast enjoyed a slow simmer over a couple of hours while brown rice softened to a toothsome texture. 

I spooned layers of sauce, wide noodles, crumbled Italian sausage, sauteed mushrooms and zucchini, and a béchamel of ricotta, egg, Parmigiano Reggiano and torn basil into a bright red ceramic dish — enough lasagna, frozen in individual squares, to last us well into December.

Pasta e ceci, Cook's Illustrated

Pasta e ceci, Cook's Illustrated

For dinner that night, pasta e ceci from a recipe in this month's Cook's Illustrated: a sautéed base of mirepoix, pancetta and anchovies, with dainty ditalini pasta and chickpeas cooked in chicken broth, reduced to a creamy sauce and finished with rosemary, parsley and lemon. 

I had to rearrange the refrigerator that night to accommodate the random assortment of repurposed Thai takeout containers and mismatched Tupperware. The hallway of our apartment building was savory with garlic, onions and meat for days afterward.

I'm a disaster of a cook. The kitchen is a war zone more often than not. I snatch pots from the rack that are far too small to fit everything the recipe calls for; I never realize it until far too late that I'm in trouble as soon as we reach a simmer. I slosh dry ingredients out of bowls onto the counter and floor when I'm baking. Without fail. 

But God, that mess ends in so much deliciousness.

Cooking grounds me — like writing used to.
Cooking doesn't make me anxious…like writing does now.

Other than writing.

Other than writing.

Practice makes perfect. Maybe someday I won't be such a mess (in the kitchen and…oh, what a loaded statement). Maybe if I can get back into the practice of writing, it won't be such a source of anxiety. 

Until then, I'm choosing a champagne cocktail — the closed laptop lid my coaster — while I mull what to make for this Sunday's dinner.