Perhaps the thing I've missed most about my life before Teddy is the dawdling, the puttering, the flipping through magazines and cookbooks, the spontaneous decision to bake a cake in the middle of the afternoon, the long neighborhood walks with Mavis. In short, the leisure time.
When Teddy is napping, my priority tends to be checking my email, or brainstorming ways to publicize my book, or cleaning, or getting started on dinner, or watching a couple of gymnastics videos on youtube (to center myself), or maaaybe, if there’s time, writing. On the days I have a nanny here, this impetus to mark things off my to-do list is even worse. (How could I pay someone to watch my kid so that I could dawdle? I need to create something great right this second!)
This lack of dawdling is probably why I'm bringing you another recipe I made on my brother's suggestion; I am outsourcing my curiosity, apparently. And by suggestion, I mean that my brother sent me a subject-less email with this link (and nothing more) in the body: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016814-picadillo.
But in the past few days, I've made a point to get a bit of puttering time in, and honestly, it's been borderline healing. Today, I listened to an old episode of On Being titled, "The Science of Attention." I’ll copy and paste the synopsis of the show now (italics mine):
"What Adele Diamond is learning about the brain challenges basic assumptions in modern education. Her work is scientifically illustrating the educational power of things like play, sports, music, memorization, and reflection. What nourishes the human spirit, the whole person, it turns out, also hones our minds."
|Our oven door handle has become a bib-drying rail.|
Which begs the question: how many times will I have to continue to learn the same lesson? That you can only push yourself so hard, that some tasks aren't helped along by that encouraging (but more often berating and suffocating) inner voice telling you that you can do it (if only you'd try harder). [Ironically, just now, I looked up the definition of the word leisure and found this: “(leisure for/to do something) opportunity afforded by free time to do something: writers with enough leisure to practice their art.”]
Speaking of voices: I'm set to record the audio version of my book at the beginning of next month. When my editor first asked me if I’d do it, I was really excited. But soon thereafter, I remembered how one of my old bosses hated my voice. How do I know? He told me so! To be precise, his words were: "Ughhh, that voice!" said in the way you might say, "Ughhh, my bulging disc!" But then, I came across this video and now I feel better.
So, here's to puttering! (Or pottering, if you're English.) Both of which are defined thusly: to "occupy oneself in a desultory but pleasant manner, doing a number of small tasks or not concentrating on anything particular."
p.s. The picadillo was great. I don’t love raisins, so substituted dried apricots, which I think worked really well. My favorite bites were ones with an olive in there, so next time, I think I’ll chop the olives into halves or quarters so as to spread the love. Also, we served this with homemade flatbread! Hopefully, we'll post a video how-to soon. They were so easy and fun to make.
Picadillo adapted from the New York Times
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 pound ground beef
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped, or one 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 bay leaves
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
⅔ cup dried apricots, chopped
⅔ cup pitted (inexpensive) pimento-stuffed green olives
Put the olive oil in a large, heavy pan set over a medium-high flame, and heat until it begins to shimmer. Add onions and garlic, stir to combine and cook until the onions have started to soften, approximately 10 minutes.
Add the ground beef, and allow it to brown, crumbling the meat with a fork as it does. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Add tomatoes, vinegar, cinnamon, cumin, bay leaves, cloves and nutmeg and stir to combine. Lower the heat, and let the stew simmer, covered, for approximately 30 minutes.
Uncover the pan, and add the dried apricots and the olives. Allow the stew to cook for another 15 minutes or so, then serve, accompanied by some manner of flatbread or white rice.