Last night when I was cooking dinner I thought of Banana Yoshimoto’s book Kitchen, about a girl who moves in with a friend after the death of her grandmother. She sleeps on a couch in their living room near the kitchen, where she feels warm and comfortable — safe. The novella details a coming to terms with loss and life change, and centers around food — so, of course, I loved it immediately.
While I simmered my red-beans-and-rice to that perfect blend of mellow spiciness yesterday eve, I realized I tend to gravitate first to the kitchen when I come home from a long day. Usually I’ve mentally checked-off the things I have in the fridge and already have an idea about what I’d like to put together for dinner (last night was a half of leftover onion cooked on low heat until soft, with a little tomato paste and red wine, and a can of drained organic kidney beans and faux sausage; a big salad; the roasted cauliflower I cannot seem to get enough of). Though my kitchen is quite tiny, it is my favorite spot to be in our apartment. And unlike like others I’ve inhabited, it’s open on both sides which, while it’s still only a little larger than a postage stamp, makes it much less claustrophobic.
Lately I’ve felt a bit in a rut — I haven’t traveled anywhere new in awhile, writing projects are creeping along far too slowly, my runs have been, frankly, anemic, and I haven’t been to the farmers market in weeks. I fight these unpleasant feelings by planting myself firmly in my minuscule, light-filled kitchen, even when I’m exhausted or frustrated by whatever else is going on. Cooking becomes not only a pleasure, but a balm.
It is also an accomplishment, and infinitely satisfying. I think Yoshimoto would agree.
[Vegetarian] Red Beans and Rice
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 can tomato paste or 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup red wine
1 can organic kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Vegetarian sausage crumbles
Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until very soft. Add the sausage and cook until browned. Add the tomato paste or tomatoes, red wine, and a bit of water. Saute about 2 minutes and add the beans. Cook on low, simmering until a rich sauce has formed and your rice is ready.
Serve with a salad, or other green vegetable.