Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Four Hour Stew

It has come to my attention that we (as a culture) are too busy to do anything. That sounds, at first, to be rather ironic, but I assure you it is not. Modern convenience, while a blessing in some ways like dishwashers and ballpoint pens, has spoiled us, freed us up, and caused us to want everything NOW! And, heaven forbid we say no! We simply must join every committee, social club, agree to every potluck. Even family gatherings have become obligatory, hurried through, survived. Our kids have to play soccer, take Tai Chi, ballet, and join 4-H. We have to accept the nomination for treasurer of our bridge club, have our hair done every Thursday, go to the gym precisely at noon and hurry up with that order, I have to pick up the kids, the laundry, the dog from boot camp! I have even heard myself complain that I simply cannot be expected to check my email everyday. I don’t have time! Dear Lord, even instant messaging and DSL are too slow!

This revelation is nothing new. Countless articles and books have been written about it, proclaiming the dangers of doing too much and the side effects of stress. How to slow down has become a catch phrase for pop culture and yet no one seems to have time.

“I’ll slow down when my kids are grown, the dog dies, the boss gets abducted back to his home planet.”


Just like you’d really love to learn to knit but you just don’t have time. To both I say this -and I do apologize for the harshness of it: if you really wanted to slow down (or knit, or raise Latvian goats), you’d do it. You’d find a way, make it priority, make the necessary sacrifices.

This, however, requires the cultivation of two very (very) unpopular but very (very) important characteristics: discipline and patience..

Wait! Don’t stop reading. I know. I understand. You want to slow down NOW. You want ten easy (and quick) steps to relax, knit some socks and make Latvian goat cheese all in a Saturday afternoon. Well, if that’s what you’re looking for, you probably should stop reading. You’ve got a lot of work to do. That’s a book you’re going to have to write yourself!

As for me, I would like to write a book as an answer, or attempt to answer, a very pressing issue which was made quite clear to me while researching one of my favorite subjects: food! It started while perusing recipes. I love to cook and I’m always on the look out for some new gastronomic delights to concoct in the test kitchen of my own home. As I scrolled and clicked and scrolled and clicked, I began to notice a trend. The most popular recipes were usually labeled “quick”, “easy”, and “fast”. Do I want to spend twelve continuous hours making one dish which will be inhaled within ten minutes? Of course not. I’m all for reviving the old ways and traditions, but I’m also thankful for the attachment on my mixer that will beat egg whites to peak-perfect perfection.

What saddened me, and really had a hand in spawning this post, was a comment made by a well known food personality about how no one (NO ONE) has the time to prepare a certain delicious dish at home anymore and therefore it should be present in restaurants. The odd feeling of sadness (the same kind that permeates your heart when a beloved pet dies or you discover your favorite coffee shop just got shoved off the cliff by the big boys) crept in and was further fueled when I came across a recipe for stew which took no less than four hours to make.

Believe it or not, I was elated. A four hour stew! Wow! That’s got to taste amazing. That’s the difference between chili started at 6:30 and eaten at 7 and chili started at 4 and savored at 8. Trust me; four hour chili tastes way better than thirty minute chili (and even better after it’s sat for 24 hours in the fridge!). Can you cook great meals in under ½ and hour? Absolutely, and usually, that’s all we have time for or, more importantly, all we want to spend in the kitchen so we can concentrate on other things like family, friends, and Latvian goat raising. However, and this is a big however, should every meal be rushed, quick, pre-packaged? Absolutely not!

Spices were meant to infuse, to marinate, to permeate a dish. Food is meant to be savored not sucked down with too much salt and not enough conviction. Kind of reminds me of life. When was the last time you smelled a rose because it was there, heard a bird sing, felt the beating of your own heart, paused long enough to watch the sunset turn the sky into a dazzling array of colors?
I have made it my mission (goal, resolution, quest) for this new year to really slow down, take a good, honest look at life and all I desire. Put my priorities straight and do what it takes to get them in order. And along the way, I hope to finally, really, truly, once and for all, take a crack at all those “if only’s” (and cook some really slow meals to boot!

Life is full of obligations, have to’s, want to’s. Sometimes we really can’t say no. I understand and I’m certainly not advocating irresponsibility, passivity, laziness, nonchalance, or disinterest in the lives and well-being of others. I am suggestion, however, we take our lives back. Enjoy the things we normally take for granted and re-discover that which we have either forgotten or over-looked because we were too pressed for time to see it.

Maybe, just maybe, if we make up our minds, garner some support (even if it’s just that herd of Latvian goats), pull back our shoulders, and stand firm, we can slowly but surely wean ourselves off of instant gratification, bursting schedules, exploding engagement calendars and drive thru induced hypnosis. And maybe, just maybe, with a little patience, some discipline, and a bit of good old fashioned persistence and sacrifice, we’ll be able to create time for what really matters to us.

Life was meant to be savored.




Four hour stew anyone?

1 comment:

  1. soup always tastes better the next day. its a rule.


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