Cooking from the Heart: A Lesson in Imperfection

You may have noticed that I have not written a blog post in quite a while. I have plenty of excuses why I haven’t been writing: 1) I was too busy to write; 2) I couldn’t get comfortable writing unless I was at home; 3) I didn’t want to post something if I didn’t have the “right” pictures to accompany the post.  But there was another and more honest reason I haven’t written in so long.  It was simply this: writing for me means getting to the heart of who I am and lately I have been avoiding just that.

Then last week two things happened to change my outlook and help me break through this writer’s block: a dear friend decided to publicly blog about his journey to happiness in all its ugly, awkward, and imperfect glory. He is diving deep and exposing all his neuroses and he is doing it in the most public way. He is an inspiration and seeing his bravery made me want to face my own demons and get to the source of my own anxieties. The day after my friend publicly announced his plan, my therapist reminded me that things don’t have to be perfect.  And that is when it clicked: by trying to make things perfect, I am actually hiding who I really am. I am so focused on what “perfect” is supposed to be or look like, that I deny who I am because I do not fit into that “perfect” mold.

Me 8-30-13

A gloriously imperfect photo
of me in my kitchen
copyright Laila Newton

When I am in my kitchen and cooking with my heart and soul, things are very rarely ever perfect. But when I am in my kitchen, I am fully centered and am living my highest self, my truest soul.  The foods and drinks that come out of my kitchen – what comes out of my heart – are amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I experiment and sometimes those experiments don’t turn out as I hoped. But the point is that when I am cooking I don’t worry about perfection, I just focus on taste and in that expression of my creative self, I am exactly who I am supposed to be. I am most honest, most real when I am in my kitchen and that is also when I am the exact opposite of perfect.  I am messy. I forget things. I break things. But then I adjust and keep going.  I never worry when I am in the kitchen; I just trust my instincts.  Most importantly: when I am in my kitchen I do not worry about failing.

So now I am applying this attitude to everything I do: I am going to trust my instincts. I am going to make mistakes. I am going to break things and I am going to forget things. But along the way I know I will create beautiful and wonderful expressions of me. Better yet, by letting go of the idea of perfection, I and going to be the best me I can be.

Stove-Top Short Ribs

short ribs & carrots

I have two guiding principles when it comes to cooking at home: 1) what do I need to use before it goes bad? and 2) don’t waste anything.  Last fall, I canned a bunch of roasted bell peppers and at the end of the day, I had about a cup of juice from the peppers left over. I didn’t want to throw it out so I canned it, too.  So, when I was checking my fridge the other day to see what I needed to use, I also checked my pantry and found this jar of juice that was almost a year old and figured I needed to use it, too. While this recipe will be nearly impossible to recreate, the point is to use this recipe simply as a guide. Look around your kitchen and pantry and see what you have available. Feel free to experiment and have fun in your kitchen. You will be amazed by what you will discover.

2 beef short ribs
2 tablespoons bacon fat, divided
½ medium onion, diced
2 pounds carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 cup roasted bell pepper juice (includes about 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar)
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
salt & pepper

Pull the short ribs out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you begin cooking so they come to room temperature. Salt and pepper the ribs on all sides. In a large pot, melt one tablespoon bacon fat on medium-high heat and brown the short ribs on all sides (about 2 minutes per side). Remove the short ribs to a plate and add the remaining tablespoon bacon fat to the pan. Turn heat down to medium-low and slowly sweat the onions. When the onions are soft and translucent (about 15-20 minutes), add the carrots and celery and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring to coat the vegetables.  Then add the roasted bell pepper juice and the wine. Place the ribs on top of the carrots.  Cover the pot and turn the heat to very low. Cook on low heat for 2-3 hours, until the beef is falling off the bone and practically melts.  When finished cooking, remove the meat and purée the vegetables. Shred the beef with two forks and serve atop the carrot purée. Garnish with fresh thyme and flaked sea salt or fleur de sel.

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This entry was posted in About Me, Eating Seasonally, Healing, Inspiration and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Cooking from the Heart: A Lesson in Imperfection

  1. Joanne says:

    Always hungry after I read your blogs… xo, Joanne

  2. NDub says:

    Great stuff….but short ribs & bacon fat – you really know how to alienate the cholesterol challenged among us 🙂

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