Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Progress Where I Find It

In that picture is something of which I am just a little bit proud.

This Christmas, for the first time in about fifteen years, I made some of our gifts. The time I spent in the kitchen making these sauces for my sisters was one of the best parts of the holiday for me, a small part of life as we dream it--slow, rich, sweet, loving, handmade. It's a small step, but I believe in calling progress when I see it. I'm already noticing ideas for next year. Family, if you'd really rather have a gift card, be warned!

Here's something I'm proud of in a different way.

This is Eclair Dessert. It's pretty much everything to which I object in food--an assemblage of four processed or premade food products. There's not a scratch element in it. But I'm proud of it anyway, because that's what my son wanted for his 16th birthday dinner. It was (ahem) assembled with love by his mama, whose foodie principles he well knows, and devoured by the happy family.

There's progress here, too. My boy--make that, young man--is a low key, mellow guy who doesn't go in for much fuss. If he has any celebratory requests, I honor them, even setting aside my principles for the day (But that's all!). The fact that he asked for a special dinner this year (chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese, green beans, know) means that maybe my festive gene is manifesting itself in my offspring. I love him just the way he is, but I celebrate with him eagerly when he's ready.

There's more progress in my principle-violating love offering--the love. I grew up feeling (whatever the reality) underloved and less important than a handful of rules. I have always intended that my child would NEVER know those feelings. If the occasional factory food will ensure that, so be it. Not many rules should apply on birthdays anyway. It's all part of the plan to be the safe, warm, loving, soft-place-to-land mama that every mother probably wants to be. Hey, at least he asked for a green vegetable! I must have done something right.

Progress isn't always about big money or happenings. It can be a steady victory by attrition, an accumulation of small steps toward big goals. Want big love? Maybe you bend the rules just a little every now and then. Want a fabulous life? Maybe a little time in the kitchen adds one tiny piece to the mosaic that is an artful life. That's what I choose to believe and why I write: to pile up treasure in the details that make life the finer thing I crave.

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