I suspect most of you think it has been pretty quiet around here because we’re crazed, sleep-deprived and wholly consumed with nuzzling squishy baby cheeks and, well, you wouldn’t be completely off-mark, minus the crazed part. But mostly it has been quiet around here because we’ve been trying to use any downtime we can spare to take Jacob out as much as possible, as much to maintain our own sanity as his. And let me tell you, this two-week old has been everywhere: Ess-a-Bagel, The Doughnut Plant, The Pickle Guys and today he even made it to the Shake Shack. He’s been to two parks, been carted around with countless cups of coffee, caught a first fall leaf and even hit a farmers market, where he attempted to make off with an eggplant before we intervened. Who knew 11-day olds could already have such wayward ways?
What do you do to prepare for a baby? We’ve talked about it endlessly this summer, and I have no doubt you’re out there thinking, “my goodness, has she still not had that baby yet?” Tell me about it. But really, how do you get ready? Do you try to figure out learn how to cook respectable meals in a minimum of time? Do you cook and freeze weeks worth of lasagna and enchiladas to ensure you don’t go hungry when the baby demands all of your attention? Do you use your remaining unscheduled time in the kitchen to bribe labor and delivery nurses?
I have been thinking a lot in the last couple of weeks about what it means to cook when you’re pressed for time. I’ve always had the luxury of time. Even when I juggled a full-time job and a site, the sum of my evening tasks were still only to make whatever I felt like making for dinner, and if dinner was done at 10 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m., we just shrugged it off.
I wish I could tell you that the last meal cooked in the first Smitten Kitchen was a triumph, a fitting coda to four-plus years in a sun-drenched Manhattan kitchen with enough space to put everything away (not that I’m pointing fingers or anything, new kitchen) and space enough for two people (and at least one growing midsection) to settle comfortably within it. Alas, that was not the case.
I am a master of finding reasons not to do things. Why I shouldn’t make a new pound cake, when I already have recipes I like. Why there’s no reason to ever roast a chicken another way. And in this case, why I shouldn’t bother making empanadas when I already have the most delicious, flawless empanada recipe ever made. (And, apparently, the moxy to boast about it.)
Sometimes, I don’t know me at all.
You see, one of the less-discussed factors in my cooking life on this site is the one I most like to keep a secret: I am incredibly picky. The list of foods I don’t want to eat is miles long. People like me have to learn to cook, it’s the only thing saving us from a diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And well, barely that recently, while we’re being honest and stuff.
Nearly two years ago, when I was a sprightly young thing who planned elaborate birthday weekends for myself, Alex and I went to The Little Owl to celebrate, an infinitesimally small and adorable restaurant in the West Village that has an Italian/New American thing going on. Never ones to study up on a restaurant before going, we simply ordered whatever sounded good (in fact, I tried unsuccessfully to replicate my fideos appetizer at home) which went really well until we told people what we’d eaten the next day and they near-universally gasped “You didn’t have the meatball sliders?”