even though we are nearing the first anniversary of our move, there still is quite a bit of adjustment to overcome. you may wonder how that’s possible given all of the months between then and now. how is it that my office is still in shambles or that our dining room table plays host to more bags than meals or that our guestroom is the only room that feels settled. i reckon the pause began when he opened a restaurant months after kai arrived, all the while still playing host to our current jobs that reside two hours away. oh, and then there’s this place too…
all of these distractions aside, what really bothers me is not feeling familiar with my kitchen. of late, all i’ve reached for are baby bottles, piper’s jar of peanut butter, and frozen kashi meals. feeling that i have much work to do on this house before it truly feels our home is one thing. nils may share the blame with me on that front. feeling a stranger in my own kitchen is quite another. that’s fully my fault. i’ve been skirting the issue for months — instead, retreating beneath the haze of my newfound life as a mum and all its distraction in caring.
now, as kai begins to settle into a routine that includes regular and lengthy naps(!), i am feeling the pull back to those worn utensils and scrappy pots and heaving dutch oven and cast iron skillet. i am also wanting to be here more, talking food and drink with you. writing. photographing. all of these interests are such a huge part of who i am and i shed them for awhile when this love took hold. now that i’m regaining clarity of mind, it somehow seems feasible to be in both places. and, i think it all begins in the kitchen, and with this book.
i couldn’t help but feel a serendipitous nudge towards resuming my interests in food writing and photography while reading luisa weiss’s my berlin kitchen. weiss turned her whole life around to set at ease the voices of her deepest self when all simply didn’t feel right. what kind of mum would i be for kai if i didn’t listen to my own internal nag. it was kind enough to give me leave when i needed to be solely with him. now that’s he is taking his own charge — becoming this amazing lil man of ours — she’s returned with tugs towards the kitchen.
since i started reading my berlin kitchen, i’ve had reason enough to ponder which recipes i should return to not only the kitchen, but to you. what would entice me back? after a few chapters read in seemingly stolen moments throughout the days and evenings when kai was sleeping or being watched by his papa or grand mums, i knew i’d be hard-pressed to choose just one recipe.
you see, weiss plucks recipes from a life steeped in a variety of cultures. i imagined beef ragu or braised endives with omelette confiture or an apple tart as a harbinger of autumn. as the pages turned began to outweigh those left to explore, i started to grow anxious. too many recipes were dog-eared. i’d spent so much time not cooking that i was overly eager to return and cook it all!
i do, as my mum does, and tuck keepsakes between the pages of cookbooks. birthday cards. poems. photos. snippets of life that i hold dear and want to return to while in the kitchen. weiss’s book reminds me of this practice. the clarity of her memories reads like snapshots frozen in their primary focus and tucked away between meaningful recipes of recollection and comfort. although i’m sure it served a good summer read, i’d rather read it as the weather here prompts more time to be spent indoors resting upon the couch with feet propped on a partner’s lap or tucked beneath oneself. this is a focused and finely tuned read that shuttled me to her vivid scenes and left me looking forward to the next moment i’d be able to spend traveling through her words — seeing these places i have yet to visit, reflected in her memories.
so, i’ve returned to the kitchen with her book in hand. it’s been a clumsy start. a near miss finger slice. tools out of place. an electric oven instead of the familiar gas stoves of every city dwelling of my past. a kai crawling around the tiles and playing with a potholder or vacant tupperware tub. a piper shoulder-to-thigh with me, unfamiliar with my stance in the kitchen not leading to her mealtime. cooking not immediately following preparation, instead being postponed til the next morning, because kai’s eyes rim with blushing tiredness. then a morning spent hurriedly cooking before work fueled by strong coffee and a new mum’s adrenaline reserve, and loving every moment and aroma.
the two recipes i chose for this post are braised leeks and swiss chard and gruyere panade. after tasting, i thought immediately of thanksgiving. the panade is like a more refined stuffing with better flavor definition. salty and almost meaty. when i make it again for thanksgiving i will add a layer of butternut squash (as luisa mentions she’d like to) most definitely roasted. the leeks are silky and earthy. after braising them early in the morning in my new-ish kitchen, i must agree with luisa when she writes, “there’s nothing like a panful of golden, tender braised leeks to make a house smell like home.”
find these recipes on the wednesday chef: