(Rachel) At eight months pregnant, not only was my body out of control, but lately, I felt as though I were losing control of simple brain function. Decisions paralyzed me.
Normally, I’m all about the Boy Scout Motto, “Be Prepared.” But four weeks before the Big Day, I hadn’t washed a single onesie or even bought a car seat. Motivated by my midwife’s prediction of an early labor, I got my pregnant self into gear, crossing off items on my task list with renewed gusto every day. Waddling as fast as I could, I painted the nursery, set up the crib, took inventory of gifts, ordered remaining essentials, made several trips to the big-box baby store, installed the car seat, and washed, folded, admired, and put away adorable pint-sized clothes in soft shades of blue and green. And I did this mostly on my own as my husband coached and traveled with a summer-league baseball team.
Once the nursery was set up, I was not quite ready to come down from my nesting high. So I turned my focus to the kitchen, preparing and freezing meals for the weeks following the birth. I roasted a purple eggplant, then chopped it up, mixing the fragrant cubes with crumbled tempeh and caramelized onions. Finally I simmered it all in a spicy tomato sauce and seasoned with a hint of licoricey fennel seeds, turning it into a rich, Greek-style filling. Then I portioned this luscious mixture into small pie tins and topped them with a rustic homemade biscuit dough. When I pulled the eight individual pies out of the oven, their bumpy mountain-top crusts steaming with goodness, I was filled with deep satisfaction.
A side of mashed potatoes would be nice with these, I thought. So I reached for some russets, and began chopping, boiling, and mashing them with vegan butter and almond milk. I was so proud of the yumminess coming out of my kitchen that I grabbed my chef’s knife and began peeling back the layers of an onion. Before I knew it, the mirepoix (diced onions, celery, and carrots) was sizzling in olive oil. Soon lentils and diced tomatoes joined the party. I lined an empty spaghetti-sauce jar with quart-sized baggies, one on top of another, then filled each baggie, removed and sealed it, one after another. “Lentil Veggie Chili,” I wrote on the bag, with instructions to “Defrost, reheat, serve with cornbread.” Cornbread . . . hmm . . . might as well whip up that recipe for vegan jalapeño cornbread I’ve been wanting to try.
And on it went. I couldn’t turn off my culinary burst of energy. I just wanted to cook and cook and cook.
I know a part of my cooking spree was to keep my mind and hands busy when all I had left to do was wait for labor to begin. When life makes you the watched pot, I say, throw in some sweet potatoes and make a breakfast casserole. Which I did, smiling as I watched the maple-pecan crumble topping caramelize under the broiler. I went on like this for days, freezing recipe after recipe. Waffles and hummus and muffins and soups and enchiladas and lentil-loafs and cookies and coconut covered cherries. My freezer was so full I had to remove the ice basket.
By the time I finally wound down, hung up my apron, and patted my bulging belly, I’d prepared more than twenty recipes.
A few days shy of my due date, I looked down at my Master Task List, smiled, and sighed. My tasks were almost complete. My house was spotless all the way down to the baseboards. (My midwife suggested I clean them as a way to help the baby’s head settle into the correct position.) The nursery was finished. And my freezer was so full that there was danger of a food avalanche when I opened the door. All that was left was to simply give birth.
Piece. O’. Cake.
Excerpt from We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook: A Mom andDaughter Dish About the Food that Delights Them and the Love that Binds Them by Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph. Used with permission.