The past couple of times that we’ve entertained, there’s always at least one guest that will stand in the kitchen, observing the food that I’ve carefully prepared and have commented that I’m a regular Martha Stewart.
The last I checked, my name’s not Martha.
I recognize that the comment is meant to be a compliment of sorts, and for the most part, I get that, but there’s a small part of me, the part of me that doesn’t WANT to be Martha Stewart that hears this so-called compliment and sees it as being backhanded.
I don’t have a craft room where I do cozy, crafty things like scrapbooking or calligraphy or transforming junky pieces of furniture into artsy pieces that will be the final touch to rooms that I have spent hours decorating. I have no interest in collaging or decollaging or stencilling or making hand made gift cards with hand made ribbons. But even if I DID do those things, I don’t understand why it would make me a Martha, why it would rob me of who I am and my indivdiuality. I understand that she’s cornered the market on being the perfect hostess but does she deserve all the credit?
I’m not trying to be Martha when I am plating chilled cucumber avocado soup and making sure the garnish is just so. I am being me, a bit of a perfectionist, certainly, but mostly I’m just trying to be a good hostess and make sure that you, as a guest, enjoy being in our company. And while I understand that a frozen pizza thrown in the oven is perfectly acceptable under the right circumstances (say dinner on a weeknight and I don’t get home until 7pm), under ideal circumstances, I get a lot of pleasure out of planning dinner parties and choosing the perfect menu and making everything just so. If I have invited you to our house and I serve a carrot cake that I’ve made from scratch for dessert, it’s a compliment to you.
You don’t need to call me Martha in return.
I’ve been doing a lot of cooking the past few months, using the cook books that I’ve carefully selected and my culinary skills have increased dramatically. I find that I am so much more efficient in the kitchen, can handle a knife with a lot more ease than I did before, can multitask or assign tasks, depending on how many pairs of hands I have available that are ready to chop, grate or mix. I seek out the finest ingredients I can find, going miles out of my way to buy red chili peppers that aren’t readily available where I normally shop, have become obsessed with finding things like creme fraiche.
I’ve learned how important fresh ingredients are, have become more aware of the chemicals and additives and preservatives that are in so much of the food we eat, things we shovel in without giving any thought to why it can sit in a jar and not go bad. I was off for a week at the beginning of July and I decided that since I was going to have a lot of free time on my hands, that I would spend the week making all my food from scratch and avoiding processed foods. I ate fresh things like avocados and scallops and berries with fresh cream. I made tomato soup from scratch and ratatouille and drank litres of water with wedges of limes. I did this for a week and when it was over I realized how much better the food I was eating tasted, how much better I felt, how good it was to feel full but not full.
I’m still avoiding processed foods as much as I can and have pretty much given up sugar and flour. Twice a week I allow myself to have bread of some form and now prefer whole grain breads. White bread made with flour that has been bleached? Not for me. I’ll indulge once a week, have something very sinful and really bad for me but mostly because I don’t want to build up sensitivites to things that could adversely change my diet for good. On Saturday I had cheese toast that Tay made for me and ice cream for dessert and it was good. But not as good as it used to be. I thought it would be harder to give up sugar than it has but I still allow myself fruits which are naturally sweet and things like 100% pure maple syrup or honey. If I have to use sugar for something I use organic cane sugar and I have a bar of organic dark chocolate in my fridge to satisfy any sweet cravings I might have and one or two squares is always enough.
Last night our friends Dave and Jackie came over with a ball of fresh buffalo mozzarella that they found at an import store that I have not been able to find anywhere else and I was so excited to have it in my posession – I promptly ran out to the garden for some fresh basil, toasted some pine nuts and whipped up some pesto which we ate with the cheese and thick slices of tomatoes.
As we sat down to have dinner I pointed out that we weren’t eating anything that was overly processed. Most of the things were made from scratch, including the potato salad with the mayo that I had made myself, or the pickles that Dave had brought over from the woman in his Dad’s neighborhood who makes them and sells them by the jar.
I wasn’t looking for compliments when I told them about the foods that they were about to eat. I’m not trying to change peoples eating habits or force them to adopt my own patterns but after we finished eating, Dave and Jackie turned to me and told me how delicious everything was. They gave me credit for making my own mayo, for the pesto that I made up spontaneously. They recognized how much time and effort these things took, the hard work that I’ve spent learning to do these things.
But best of all, neither one of them called me Martha and that was the greatest compliment of all.