I’ve been trying to write a post about frying chicken for the last three days, and the words just don’t want to come out. It’s not that I can’t write about frying chicken—because I totally can—but what I want to write about right now is how it’s been a month and a half since I started this project and I can’t believe how much fun I’m having. The sense of grounding I get walking into my apartment with a full bag of groceries just waiting to be transformed into something new and delicious. How I don’t mind that the time ticks by quietly while I concentrate, listening to my Audible Books as I chop an onion, adjusting my silly light fixture as I sauté and brown and plate. Even more than this, I can’t believe how much of myself I’ve recovered since I started cooking for myself again and not my hunger.
The last four years, when I was in grad school, I got too committed [if that can be called a “thing”] to just writing for deadlines and page lengths rather than writing for myself to better my craft. I stopped loving it, and then I kind of stopped liking it, and then I just stopped writing. Last year I don’t think I wrote more than two pages of anything worth revising, and my soul suffered for it, honestly. I was lost after school, not really sure what to make of my complete exhaustion with words and how to recover from it. And while I didn’t stopped cooking [I do need to eat, after all], I just wasn’t excited about making meals or trying new recipes like I used to and would always just repeat the go-to’s till I was just bored of what I was making and food in general. Food had never been boring to me and it was such a weird concept to think about, that while I was eating was good, I just wasn’t moved by it. It became a chore to feed my hungry belly and nothing more. It was clear I had forgotten what I loved about cooking, about writing—since for me, the two have always intermingled in my work and my life—and why I fell in love with them to begin with.
The only way I knew how to remember was to practice. I love to practice things that I know I’m good at, but not great at, not to reach greatness, but to simply get to that moment where the mundane turns into something extraordinary. It takes time, it takes patience, and there’s a faith that even if the process is a little messy and there are some bumps in the road, the end result is what matters because all that time and energy made something beautiful. That has been my approach with writing for so long that the same sort of mentality has seeped into my cooking now, which isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. If anything, it’s making me a more conscientious cook, and I wish I had taken more time away from my writing during my program to cook because I think my heart, mind, and writing would have been better for it. I guess I’m still practicing being me, too.
What I’m trying to say is, that I admit to over-practicing [again, if that can be called a “thing”] and not maintaining a balance. What I’m trying to say is that, this whole project, this blog, my cooking, it isn’t about simply feeding me and my loved ones physically like it may have been when all I did was read and write and make deadlines. Right now, my cooking is fueling my creativity and soul in a way that writing just simply can’t do on its own anymore, and I’m okay with that. More than okay, actually. This blog is showing a part of myself that I never thought I’d be brave enough to explore, and it’s frankly a little marvelous to finally be hitting my stride and finding my balance between two things I love to do so much, while balancing and enjoying the other wonderful things I have in my life.
I’m aware none of this really relates to fried chicken, but I think the fact that this is one of the prettiest plates of food I’ve ever made—albeit a little heavy-handed on the salt, but I don’t fry much and am still practicing the technique—is what got me on this whole transgression of self-awareness and personal growth. And it can only get better from here!
So here’s to all of you who continue to practice what you love! Make sure to take a break every once in a while for yourself! I promise you’ll thank yourself for it later. — Cooking Maggie
PS. The chicken milanese above is from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, SO I’ve included the link to a different chicken milanese that is on her website. The only difference is the salad. The one I made is an arugula and shaved fennel salad with a mustard vinaigrette, but the milanese preparation is the same!
Chicken Milanese + An Escarole Salad from Smitten Kitchen