Over this past weekend, I had planned a few posts documenting my recent trip to Washington, D.C. I was so excited to regale you all with tales of the best burger I have ever tasted and endless pictures of the friends I miss so much, a new baby and many, many puppies. Then, in Japan, disaster (which in some ways, at this point, seems like an understatement) struck. And I was silenced.
I have been glued to the news; impatiently waiting for new photographs and updates, watching endless ‘before and after’ features and cringing every time that wave washes all life away. Then the nuclear reactor explosions – there just do not seem to be any words to make it make sense.
I visited Japan briefly this past September. At the time, I did not make it far beyond Yokohama where I was attending a scientific conference; however, I returned to Paris knowing that I wanted to go back someday with plenty of free time to explore the beautiful landscape and incredibly generous people. Like watching the revolution unfold in Cairo, a mere six weeks ago, I knew this place, these people and had tasted their culture. This was not just another nameless, faceless, inconceivable atrocity on the nightly news that could be flipped past. Somehow having been there makes it much more real. A swift-punch-to-the-stomach-type of real.
I no longer felt like writing about barbeque, colorful row houses and security guards on Segways. Instead, I have spent some quality time catching up with my blogroll – watching to see how others responded to the catastrophe and trying to gain comfort by feeling like a part of the larger online community. Last night I stumbled upon (via Luisa) Ruth Reichl’s response to the crisis – her ‘moral responsibility’ – and it resonated with me.
So, the posts about DC and more meat than you can imagine (except maybe Lyon) will have to wait for another day. Today I needed comfort and, for me, that comes most readily in food. After a long day in the lab, I returned home and started cooking. As of this moment, I have not stopped.
In an effort to empty the kitchen before tomorrow’s panier arrives, I attempted to make a potato salad with black radish and carrot. I was aiming for a mix of this and this. Apparently, I completely misgauged my proportions and ended up with more of a carrot/radish slaw featuring roasted potatoes, but it still tastes fresh and healthy, with a bit of a kick from a garlic lemon vinaigrette.
After the salad, I tackled a sack of almost forgotten lentils. I followed the recipe from Mark Bittman’s Sustainable Food feature, with a few of the ‘Moors and Christians’ substitutions thrown in. My house now smells homey and welcoming, thanks to the initial step of sautéing carrots, onions, red bell pepper and bacon. After an hour in the dutch oven, the rice and lentils melted together with the vegetables (all bound with the bacon, of course) into a fortifying casserole that will be perfect to take for lunch for the heavy science days ahead.
As the evening draws to a close, I find myself comforted. My home is warm and fragrant from all of the cooking. I’ve been soothed, at least in the short term, by the chopping, simmering and the creation of something(s) delicious from the odds and ends in the kitchen. None of this will help with the crisis halfway around the world; if you have the means to do that, look here or here or here. Yet, for me, cooking stilled the anxiety; creating led to contentment. Now if I could just find someone to do my dishes.