Posted on Leave a comment

Writer’s Kitchen: Learning to Improvise

Absinthe Cake

Life is all about improvisation. Improvisation and reinvention.

Back in the days before we had children, Sarah and I would get together frequently to cook and bake, always finding some intriguing recipe to try, such as raclette macaroni and cheese or David Lebovitz’s absinthe cake (pictured above and featured in a previous edition of Writer’s Kitchen). While those kitchen dates with my dear friend virtually stopped for a while, I’m happy to report that we’re back to it, albeit in a modified and not-so-efficient way (have you ever tried cooking while supervising small children?). And we’re back at it just in time for fall, with its bounty of comforting stews and warm spices.

When Sarah and I used to work through complex recipes, we had a routine. I would take the role of recipe reading, making sure we were following the correct steps and keeping everything on track. Sarah would prep ingredients and keep the kitchen remarkably tidy as we went on. We were a great team. We would take our time and savor the experience, marveling in how well we worked together and talking about whatever was on our minds. These days we improvise–something our new identities as mothers requires. And while it may take twice as long to bake a simple batch of cookies, I have to say that our reinvention was totally worth it. You should see us as we wrangle very active baby boys while trying to get a recipe just right–and keep the kitchen moderately clean!

I never would have expected that becoming a mother would change the way I cooked, but it has–and in the most interesting way. I used to stick comfortably to the flavors and techniques in a recipe, veering only a little to compensate with ingredients on hand. However, in the past few months I’ve found myself coming up with ideas and running with them, sometimes piecing together a few recipes to help me with technique (as was the case with mushroom- and cheese-topped rockfish atop steamed spinach that I made over the summer) and other times boldly pulling experimental flavors together into an improvised side dish (such as the linguine with garlic, anchovies, red pepper flakes, and cilantro from earlier this month). Maybe it’s because I don’t have the time to menu plan as extensively as I used to, and therefore am forced to improvise more often. And maybe developing recipes for some recent articles in Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine and the Norwegian American Weekly has had something to do with it. In any case, it’s been exciting to watch how the kitchen skills I’ve developed over the years now serve me well as I trust myself to create something delicious, and I can’t wait to try out my newfound confidence with the bounty of fall foods.

What are some of your favorite original kitchen creations? I’d love to hear from you and get some more inspiration!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *