When Life Hands You Lemons

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.
- Julia Child

About a month ago, I made a change that has left me alternating between pure giddiness and paralyzing fear - I quit my job. Obviously I'm not the first person to do this, so it's not necessarily that I consider myself a pioneer - but for me, the girl that has had a job since she was 15 - and lived by the rule of "don't quit a job until you have another job" - this is huge.

I spent 8 years in the advertising industry. During that time, I climbed the proverbial ladder, made fabulous friends, learned lessons on a professional and personal level, met my husband, and decided I was being sucked dry by an unfulfilling career. The day I decided to leave, I felt a huge weight lifted off of me. Over the past few weeks, that weight has returned in the form of fear and doubt, panic and uncertainty. The knowledge that I'm following my heart and my dreams of a career surrounding food intervenes at times, allowing for the momentary senses of pride and satisfaction that for the first time in my life, I made a choice for me - instead of someone else. It's a constant battle, one that leaves me exhausted and exhilarated, all at the same time.

Cooking gets me through the tougher days, and makes the easier days even more so. Standing in the aisles of the grocery store, in front of a stove with all 4 burners blazing, in front of a smoking grill....I'm me. I'm comfortable, secure, completely together, and happy. The kitchen is the glue that keeps me from falling apart - and the validation that I've made the best decision of my life.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Green Onion-Dill Mayo & Lemon Risotto

Salmon fillets
Salt & Pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
-Sprinkle fillets with salt & pepper
-Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat - add salmon, skin side up, and sear until golden brown and just cooked through, about 7-8 minutes.

1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp. chopped green onions
1/4 tsp. dill
-Combine all ingredients and mix well.

1 shallot, diced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. crushed garlic
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups hot chicken broth
Zest of one lemon
Salt & Pepper
-Heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and saute until tender and translucent, about 3 minutes.
-Add garlic and rice, stirring until rice has been coated well with oil. Cook until rice becomes translucent, about 2 minutes.
-Add chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, allowing rice to completely absorb stock, stirring frequently. Continue until all stock has been added.
-Add lemon zest and stir until combined. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Serve salmon on top of risotto and serve with green onion-dill mayo.

(Wine suggestion: 2007 Ken Forrester Stellenbosch Petit Chenin)


Grumpiness, Defined

If hunger makes you irritable, better eat and be pleasant.
-Sefer Hasidim

Grumpiness is defined as “surly or ill-tempered; discontentedly or sullenly irritable; grouchy”. In my family, it’s normally reserved for toddlers, crotchety old men….and me. It wouldn’t be irrational logic to assume that I’d be offended by someone lumping me into the same temperamental category as those two groups. It wouldn’t be presumptuous to think that I’d bristle every time someone purses their lips at me and murmurs “My, my, someone is grumpy today”. Yet I am a proud grump. On the days that I wake up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed (which in our household usually means the dog started barking too early, the cat was wailing for food even though her dish was full, or my husband simply stated “Get up” as opposed to a gentle back rub to rouse me from sleep), I’m almost filled with a sense of satisfaction that it gets to be a “grumpy day” for me.

Crabbiness takes its toll on me in a way I haven’t seen in those around me. My five year old nephew refuses to let anyone look at him or speak to him, lest he release an ever-decibel-increasing lament of “Dooooooooooooooooooon’t” that will leave you feeling stripped of your skin and zapped of your energy. My mom and sister both dish out snappy remarks at the most innocent of comments, usually which leave me rolling my eyes and slowly stepping away. I, however, become the complete opposite of those. I become quiet to the point that my husband thinks I’m sad….and I engulf the chance to tuck into myself and avoid others. I sit and stare into space, unable to focus long enough to complete a thought. Shopping, crossword puzzles, and tv shows sometimes lift the fog, but the only true thing that gets me out of the funk is food.

In Italian, grumpy translates into “scontroso”. There are some words that when translated, leave a sense of wonder at how they are even close in definition or origin. Scontroso is a word that rolls off the tongue and actually makes me feel its meaning. How appropriate that Italian food would be on the top of my list when I’m having a bad day.

It’s a pretty small leap that pasta is one of the most infamous of comfort foods. It brings about a sense of warmth, fulfillment, richness, and flavor that even the most cranky person cannot ignore. For me, Southern foods also help to extract me from the foulest of moods...so it stands to reason that the two combined serve me well. Barbeque spaghetti is one of those combinations. Sweet and spicy barbeque tossed with perfectly cooked spaghetti lifts my spirits with one bite...not to mention how quickly it can be thrown together.

Barbeque Spaghetti

Spaghetti or Angel Hair, cooked according to package directions
Precooked barbeque in sauce (I use Lloyd's)

- Prepare pasta and toss with barbeque. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and serve with toasted Garlic bread.


To Food, With Love

The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it…if you’re convinced that cooking is drudgery, you’re never going to be good at it, and you might as well warm up something frozen.
– James Beard

Falling in love with him is by far the easiest thing I’ve ever done. It’s the grandest accomplishment I’ve made and the one thing that I feel I do exceptionally well. The force that lies within me that has made me push past the fears and the doubts has also strengthened my ability to think of someone else before myself. I often question what it is that makes a relationship blossom and bloom. There is a continual sense of wonder within myself that makes me look at our relationship and consider whether or not it’s perfect…am I doing everything all wrong? Am I setting us up for failure? That I never find concrete answers, and yet we keep gliding in and out of our days in perpetual bliss, only serves to make me more curious about where we’re heading and where we’ll end up.

Learning to cook came easy for me as well. I can equate it on many levels to meeting him and falling in love, and eventually progressing to a place where doubts represent curiosity, fears result in overcoming obstacles, and comfort equals safety. There are the days and the dishes that I get right every single time…and then there are the moments and the meals that make me unsure, and require much more effort and patience to get through them without falling apart. Despite all of that, though, I feel at the end of the day that as long as I nurture the love I feel for him, and for cooking, that things will never go horribly awry.

People need one another. Same goes with foods. Individuals are complex yet simple…a flavor can be described the same way. Alone, it may be enough, or it may be lacking. Alone, it may be weak, or it may be strong. There are certain personality aspects which clash, and when joined, only serve to prove themselves distasteful. Then there are those combinations, be it people or food, that seem so well suited to one another that it almost becomes strange to see them separate. These things gather together because they belong together. They grow together because they complement each other. They give together and build together, in order to create that which could not have been done alone. Once that discovery is made of what can be achieved, there are no limits as to how far it can go.

Crunchy Chicken Tacos with Spicy Slaw

1 lb. chicken tenders, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt & pepper
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. chili powder
2 cups crushed tortilla chips
3 tbsp. olive oil
12 (10”) wheat tortillas

- Sprinkle chicken liberally with salt & pepper.
- In a shallow dish, combine paprika and next 3 ingredients. Add chicken and toss to coat.
- Heat 1 tbsp. of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Saute chicken in skillet until browned and cooked through, 10-12 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking, heat remaining oil in a medium skillet. Add tortillas in batches and cook until they are golden and beginning to blister, about 3 minutes. When removing tortillas from skillet, fold gently onto a warm plate (this will help tortillas form a shell shape).
- Spoon chicken into shells and top with spicy slaw.

Spicy Slaw:
1 16 oz. package coleslaw mix (red and green cabbage)
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced into thin strips
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 banana pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 celery rib, diced
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 small red onion, sliced into thin strips
1 Splenda packet
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
½ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
Zest of one lime
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss until thoroughly combined.

St. Luciaaaaahhh

I strongly believe that culinary love is not about having a French Passport, but about what you feel.
-Albert Roux

It’s a promise in our relationship that no matter what the circumstances may be, there will be an annual vacation…a vacation that can only be classified as overindulgent and mind-numbingly relaxing. We take turns planning and treating, and despite the fact that we both vehemently despise the actual act of traveling, nothing could make us turn down a 12 hour day of airports and cramped planes for what inevitably awaits us once we arrive at our final destination.

For me, the true gauge of what makes a great vacation is the food. In my everyday environment, I am obsessed with food. In a vacation environment, I’m an absolute sociopath. When it’s my turn to plan, I seek out the places defining themselves as having great restaurants, local flavor, and access combined with availability to ensure a full realm of choices.

Case in point-our trip to St. Lucia. It was my turn to plan, and I stumbled upon this gorgeous island with a bevy of all-inclusive resorts. Having never gone that route, I was a bit nervous that we’d end up in some scary compound and I’d be banned from all future planning. I chose a resort and spa with four restaurants, certain that I’d cover the bases. Coconut Bay Resort and Spa delivered on all accounts. The service was exceptional, the staff friendly, the scenery to die for, and the food…wow. Readily available whenever we felt the slight pang of hunger (which wasn’t often, considering I maintained a steady flow of food intake throughout the five days), and obviously cooked with care by a staff of professionals.

A daily lunch and dinner buffet stretched along an enormous expanse of wall and contained regional fare, as well as comfort food that made us feel as though we were still at home. The fish and veggie lasagna was rich without being too strong, tender without being mushy, and included a perfectly balanced Mornay sauce. The salads with grilled corn and fresh peppers, topped with fresh tuna, were a perfect way to cool off from the heat. Hot and sour seafood soup filled with fresh shrimp, mussels, and squid, was flavored delicately and allowed the seafood to come forward and be acknowledged instead of hiding behind the broth.

The highlight of the trip was our last night there, when we finally managed to obtain a reservation at Bellagio, the Italian restaurant on the property. It was worth the wait in every aspect. The potato and mushroom soup, which I hoped would be neither too salty nor too bland, did not disappoint. Smooth and velvety, it started the best meal I’ve had in ages. Add to that the salads (Caprese for him, with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil; for me, mixed greens with walnuts, mandarin oranges, gorgonzola, and an incredible balsamic vinaigrette), and I could have easily walked away fully satisfied. I could not be happier that I resisted that urge. His pumpkin and risotto ravioli in a creamy marinara tasted as incredible as it smelled. Sweet with a hint of nutty flavor, it balanced perfectly. I made the right choice with my filet, which was served with a peppercorn cream sauce, grilled vegetables, and asparagus risotto that made us both moan. This risotto was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. It was cooked to perfection, creamy yet delicate, loaded with fresh pieces of bright green asparagus that was crisp yet tender. I finished my plate, which rarely happens, and even passed up tiramisu, which resulted in me receiving a look of disbelief from across the table. I have NEVER passed on tiramisu.

All in all, I’d endure the misery of airplanes and annoying travelers any day of the week for a chance to go back to Coconut Bay…even if only for one meal. It would undoubtedly be worth it.

Love vs. Lust

Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn.
- Garrison Keillor

People often speak of the difference between love and lust. I easily equate the concept of love and lust to food – in terms of impetuous cravings vs. foods that will always appeal to me as enjoyable. Lust strikes quick, and often ends badly…which holds true for me when it comes to a craving I just can’t pass up. When I get a craving for something, it’s usually unhealthy (although decadent and delicious), and while I enjoy it in the present tense, I’m usually left with a combined feeling of guilt and unease once I’ve consumed it. Love, on the other hand, sustains and satisfies long after you begin to enjoy it…and the feeling it leaves behind in our soul is one of comfort, warmth, and true bliss – much like a go-to meal does once it’s been enjoyed.

Lust is deceptive in its appeal – rarely do we consciously forego the opportunity to engage in something so presumably amazing. Should we take the time to stop and think about the consequences of being led down that path, we’d more likely than not pass – whether we’re passing up on an empty night of passion, or an empty plate of calories. The result is the same – a sickening feeling that something is missing, and the euphoria has ended almost as quickly as it has begun.

Love builds slowly, and if we’re lucky, it propels us to a state of innate and constant appreciation and awe of what we’ve found. It doesn’t disappear, even if it disappoints, and it can be relied on, even in the most uncertain of times. To me, a favorite dish instills the same sense of comfort. Finding a food or a meal to fall in love with is second only to finding the person you want to spend eternity with.

Creamy Skillet Corn

1 tbsp. butter
4 ears of corn

1/2 cup chicken broth
1 ½ cups half & half
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
¼ tsp paprika
1 tsp. chopped pimientos

- Remove husks and silks from corn, cut corn from cobs.
- In medium skillet, melt butter and add corn, stirring to coat.
- Add chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- Add half & half and next 4 ingredients, and reduce heat. Simmer until thick and creamy, stirring occasionally, about 20-25 minutes.

Childhood Revisited

Food is not about impressing people. It's about making them feel comfortable.
-Ina Garten

When I was little, I found myself with the type of mother whom at the time I considered a curse – the type of mother that cooked dinner every night. My mom didn’t go to work until I was almost a teenager, so she was always around at the end of each school day. That part I didn’t mind – it was the inevitable displeasure I’d often feel once she answered the daily question of “What’s for dinner?” Looking back now, I’d give anything to be able to have her there at the end of a bad day, where all I’d have to do would be unwind and await the call to the table. Of course, my palate has changed considerably since then and I find myself craving the types of meals I loathed in those days.

There were occasional days, however, that made my eyes light up in joy as soon as I saw the signs – covered dishes being removed from the refrigerator, the spice rack being brought out and the pantry being ransacked. These could only mean one thing – a smorgasboard.

Smorgasboards hail from Swedish cuisine and consist of a buffet-style setup full of a range of items, both hot and cold. Historically, they would be comprised of specific types of dishes – but throughout the years, tradition and translation has led them to be any combination of entrees, sides, and desserts.

In our house, it was very important to elbow your way to the head of the line, lest you miss out on the most appealing items – the entrees that had fewer leftovers, due to their relative popularity in our family. I remember looking down at a plate filled with chicken enchiladas, meatloaf, pear salad (canned halved pears filled to the brim with mayonnaise, shredded cheese and lettuce), and a slice of cinnamon toast. It never dawned on me then that my mother was simply getting rid of leftovers while simultaneously allowing herself a night off of cooking. In my mind, it was a magical occurrence that allowed us to sample different types of cuisines and made for an exciting dinner filled with interesting flavor combinations.

Even to this day, whenever my husband asks me what I think we should have for dinner, and the idea of a smorgasboard pops into my head, I am automatically taken back to a time when dinner was fun – and was about seeing what you could come up with. I do sometimes take the time to create a smorgasboard instead of just using leftovers, usually when we can’t decide what we want or can’t agree on just one thing. Otherwise, it’s childhood revisited – leftover roasted sweet potatoes, a fried green tomato blt (when the green tomatoes are on the verge of ripening, the lettuce is running the risk of wilting, and we’re almost out of bread), chicken and waffles. It’s certainly not gourmet, and I’ve felt a twinge of guilt at feeding my loving husband such a mishmash of foods, but then I remember my mother doing it for us, and how happy it made me – and I dive in.

Atmospheric Pressure

Seeing is deceiving. It's eating that's believing.- James Thurber

I read an article today in Restaurants and Institutions magazine that baffled me. According to research conducted by the magazine, atmosphere is one of the lowest ranking factors in how consumers evaluate their dining experience in a restaurant. I am a person driven by sights, colors, and my surroundings…and the emotions that are evoked from sensory cues affect me intensely, so I’m surprised to learn this isn’t the case on a universal level.

Upon entering a new restaurant for the first time, what is the initial action that occurs? For me, it’s the visual sweep from side to side, top to bottom…the process of soaking up the feel, the ambience, the environment. Sure, it’s also taking in the scents and aromas – but I’m far more inclined to be affected by a bustling (or bumbling) service staff, paint colors, music, even temperature – before I even allow myself to move forward into the culinary aspects of a place.
It’s possible that all consumers are this way as well, and simply don’t realize it – maybe our reactions to atmosphere are so instantaneous that they remain in our subconscious unless we actively draw upon them to help us rate our experience.

Have you ever walked into a restaurant and immediately considered turning around and leaving? Have you had a moment where you look around and think you’ve made a mistake in your choice of where to eat? More importantly, did you stay or did you go? I will never leave a new restaurant based on a first impression, but I will certainly judge it – and until the food arrives to either confirm my initial thoughts or refute them, I soak up my surroundings and put them in a neat little pile for me to come back to after I’ve eaten. Only then can I reevaluate and fully come to my conclusion about what the place holds.

Desperate Housewife

The greatest inspiration is often born of desperation.
Comer Cotrell

When you dedicate more time thinking about what you wish you could be doing, as opposed to what you are doing, you’re probably in over your head. When your husband recognizes that look, that sigh, that scrunching of the mouth, and immediately says “You just need to DO something about it”, without even confirming your mood, you need to snap out of it. When the only thing that gets you through the day is the fantasy of attaining what you haven’t yet attained, you have to stop – and then go. Stop long enough to take into account all of the angles, all of the pieces, and all of the parts – and then go form them into something whole.

Writing about being unhappy (or more precisely, unfulfilled) is a bit like telling a joke without a punch line. You can certainly go on and on, but without a goal in sight, without the final touch to bring it together, you’re rambling. You make no sense, and no one really wants to hear it.

It’s become automatic to me lately – the instantaneous reaction I have to a situation I am not pleased with, the feeling of defeat when I stumble across another person who is doing what I want to be doing, only better, more frequently, and for compensation; the irrational fear and terrifying knowledge that it’s all slipping past me while I cling to something that doesn’t even fit my poorly self-defined mold. All of these emotions are filling me almost without my knowledge, and then occasionally tumbling out of me in a mad rush, and it’s only when I begin to crack do I realize that they’ve been there all along.

I’m completely infatuated with food. Every time I see a menu, or visit a grocery store, or read an article about a new cooking technique or the trendy new restaurant coming to my neighborhood, my mind goes into overdrive. I ask myself how it came together, what was the driving force behind it, what’s within it – or what is it within – and most importantly, how I feel about it. Primarily, my reactions to anything in the culinary world are instantaneous in terms of my initial level of interest – I think the same could be said of most. However, overcoming the driving force of my indifference has taught me the importance of looking a bit deeper at what you find. Whereas I’ve been prone to turn a page, or drive on by, or quickly scan and move on, I’ve now discovered in myself the ability to stop and soak in what’s surrounding me.

Breakups and Breakdowns

I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.
–Marcel Boulestin

I’ve never met a person who wasn’t had “that” relationship. The one that changes your life, and brings out the good and the bad in you. The relationship that makes people worry about you...be it the unhealthy aspects of it, or the fact that you’re so giddy and disgustingly happy that it’s hard to tell if you’re still in there among the starry eyes and romantic notions. That relationship has happened to every person I know. Some of us come out on top, and better for having had it. Some of us never get over it, and carry around the dark secret hurt with us while pretending to move on. And then others just don’t pretend.

Regardless of the length or the seriousness of the relationship, when it’s “that” one, it burns fast and hot when it’s over. There is no formula by which to gauge how much it should or shouldn’t hurt. The point is, it hurts. No matter if you think you’ve found the person you’ll spend the rest of your life with, or just the person you’ll go on a fourth date with…when it dissolves, and you realize you were wrong, it’s painful. No matter if it ends dramatically, with a knock down drag out fight, or quietly, with an apology and averted eyes, the sinking feeling in your stomach isn’t lessened.

I had that relationship once. Looking back now, I am well aware it was nowhere near as bad as I thought at the time…seeing as now the pain has subsided and the tears long since dried up. However, when I was in the midst of it, it was pure hell - and I struggled with the ability to cope.

It’s somewhat of a cliché that people use food to get through the bad times…but it’s fully supported. Whether it’s ice cream or filet mignon, chips and salsa or veal saltimbocca, the tendency to turn to food as a means to mend a broken heart seems to be a given. When I was at my lowest point, it was therapeutic to put myself through a rigorous workout. Had it not been for those morning gym visits, and the afternoon jogs with my dog, I’d have put on an incredible amount of weight…for all I wanted to do was eat. My favorite was baked spaghetti. I made dish after dish of it, in all different varieties, and it gave me an odd sense of solace. I’m fortunate that when I make it now, it doesn’t bring back a rush of emotion and sadness…instead, it still brings the same comfort that I so desperately relied on back then.

I’ve made baked spaghetti many ways. As much as I love Italian food, I’m not a huge fan of marinara sauce. As a result of that, I’ve found different ways to create this dish. Madame Benoit once said that “A recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation”. I’ve experimented enough to create different combinations…and haven’t found one I didn’t like.

Meat/main ingredient options: Ground beef, Italian sausage, mushrooms, shrimp, chicken
Sauce options: Alfredo, Sun dried tomato Alfredo (Bertolli in a jar), Newburg, Vodka Sauce
Cheeses: Mozzarella, Parmesan, Asiago, Ricotta, Gouda

There’s no technique. There are no rules, and there is no magic wand. Pick a meat/main ingredient (or any combination, cooked accordingly), pick a sauce, pick a cheese. The amount of each all depends on personal preference…if you’re partial to sauce vs. cheese, add more sauce. Toss it all together with cooked pasta, and bake in a glass baking dish at 350 degrees until bubbly, usually about 25 minutes.

Whether it’s a breakup, a fight, or just a bad date, there are times when we need something to turn to. Figure out what works, and always have those items on hand. Life is unpredictable…and you never know when they may come in handy.

Shying Away

No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers. -Laurie Colwin

I was painfully shy as a kid. When our family would go to dinner together, my mom and dad would have to order for me because I didn’t want to speak to the server. I didn’t make new friends easily – I had virtually the same friends all throughout school. I’m much the same way now. It takes me time to warm up…but once I do, I never have difficulty in progressing to a place where I’m comfortable – often so comfortable that it can be interpreted as brazen.

In reality, I’m gauging. There is something in the ability to watch and observe that gets me to a place where I find the boundaries before I cross them, where I see the direction to take before I get lost.

I approach food the same way. With any new recipe that piques my interest, or an ingredient I come across that I haven’t yet implemented into a dish, I “read” a flavor. I look at it, over and over, and form a variety of angles to consider, finding the same direction and boundary span that I search for in people. At what point would I be going too far? What might possibly insult it? What would complement it? Might I improve it, or will it just not agree with me?

This recipe is a combination of different flavors and textures, that combine to create a wholly satisfying meal on nights when I'm feeling lazy and can only summon the energy to throw ingredients into a dish.

Sweet & Crunchy Chicken Casserole

3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped Granny Smith Apple
2 cups grated Colby/Monterey Jack Cheese
1 pkg. slivered almonds
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayo
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup crushed potato chips

- In a large bowl, combine chicken, celery, apple, 1 cup of the cheese, and the next 4 ingredients, blending well.
- Bake at 350 for 30 minutes; sprinkle remaining cheese and potato chips on top and bake additional 5-7 minutes, or until cheese is melted and chips are beginning to brown.

Starting Over

We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are. - Adelle Davis

In the search for a new career path, I’ve been consistently plagued by the fear that although my passion and desire peaks in a kitchen, taking it from a love and hobby to a full time job would ruin the pleasure derived from it. Attempting to snake around it by finding associated jobs, which would allow the happiness I get from a new dish, or from seeing satisfaction on the faces of friends and loved ones when they try something I’ve created, has been no easy task. It’s equally difficult to find yourself embarking on a new adventure when you don’t have the formal training and experience to back it. Throwing my thoughts on paper, and relating to food in a way that simultaneously allows me to reach down into my personal depths, has done as much in the way of freeing me from the daily grind as bringing the frustrations of my situation into the spotlight.

On the days that I’m not in the mood to cook, I worry that it’s the day I’ve dreaded…the day that it doesn’t bring me the same solace and comfort I have begun to rely on. Once my rational side kicks in, and it dawns on me that it’s acceptable to take a day off, I begin to relax…and to plan. I make mental notes on the correlations between life and cooking, I excitedly make lists of meals I’ll make on the days that I do have the inspiration, and I dream. I visualize my future, the one in which I wake up invigorated and refreshed by what awaits.