Monday, August 12, 2013

Stocking Up, Nesting, and Losing Control

 (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. 

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