Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sensory at Heart

As I have learned that cumin and coriander produce tantalizing tastes together, and that if ancho chiles are not prepared properly they make a disgusting, uneatable chili that wreaks havoc on the smell of a small living place, I have discovered little events that bubble up when working in a kitchen that make me happy every time they occur. These little events are small moments of satisfaction in my kitchen that make me love cooking, and be prepared, they are pretty quirky.

For example, I absolutely love when a recipe calls for lemons or limes, so I can squeeze them out and toss them down the disposal, turn it on, and smell the pungent citrus scent that rises out of ground up food waste. I know, this sounds a little ridiculous, and I hope most of you are laughing at me right now! But I really do love it. That citrusy scent makes the tedious chore of washing dishes that much more bearable. Of course, our little studio has no room for a dishwasher, and Aaron and I really dread doing the dishes (in fact all of last night's dishes are still there waiting to be cleansed, and I am happily ignoring them at a coffee shop), but one lime half down the disposal can really crank up the magic. On a tangent, I would love to hear about people that love doing the dishes, because to me that would be a curiosity to be pondered. So tell me if you do, and tell me why.

I love the sound of cold water striking a saucepan after it has cooked up some bacon or hamburgers or even a vegetable sauté.  The symphony of a thousand bubbles announces a job accomplished and hopefully well done, and hints at the satiation of another grumbling belly even before the food has touched anyone's lips. It is the sound of a dull roar popping into notice. I am always a tad scared of getting burned yet also excited by the steam.

I have spoken before on my blog of another little event that I love in the kitchen; namely, the rising smell of onions and garlic cooking in extra virgin olive oil. This smell heralds the start of another cooking adventure and takes me back to being a child in my nana's kitchen, barefoot on the linoleum and not quite tall enough to see the top of the counter, smelling the start of another fabulous family feast. This smell fuels the hope that I am on my way to creating another fabulous family feast, even if it is only for a family of two.

These smells and sounds and tastes come together to create a sensory experience that bridges childhood and adulthood. When I watch my preschoolers explore in the sensory tub, I remember how I loved sensory experiences as a child. I loved running barefoot in the grass, and feeling the warm concrete on my feet as the sun went down. I loved having something to do with my hands, like playing with leaves or twigs while talking with friends, or knitting, or making really disgusting taffy out of stretching marshmallows over and over and over. I loved hearing music, and today associate songs I hear with warm summer memories from childhood. I loved craft projects and mud projects and cookie projects. As I watch my preschoolers, and sometimes join in with them (on the pretense of giving them more ideas of what to do with the sensory material, but really I'm not fooling anyone, I'm just there to play too), I realize that although I don't have a sensory tub in our studio, I often unconsciously create these tactile experience as I cook. I often mix things in the kitchen with my fingers, when I actually could be using a whisk or a wooden spoon. Bread dough and black bean patties simply cry out for fingers, as does a fresh batch of sugar scrub, which I always test before I it put it in a jar to give away. I find a myriad of sensory experiences at my fingertips in my kitchen.

These small moments of continuing exploration are part of why I love cooking. I love getting my senses involved, which may be why I prefer to hand write things instead of type them (although I do type them at times, and am forced to admit that I am typing this post right now). I like the smell and feel and small sounds of paper and pen. Perhaps this is also why I remain stubbornly old fashioned and read books rather than purchase an e-reader. I like the feel of holding a physical book in my hands, turning the pages, and hearing the scratch of a pencil when I decide to make notes. Although “sensory” is a preschool subject as much as science or math is in high school, I am still sensory at heart, two decades past my own preschool days.

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