There seem to be plans being made every day. Last year, at least the first half, was a lot slower than this. Yes, I traveled. A lot. Which helped distract me. But there were moments that were slow. Really, really slow… So slow that I started to read Fifty Shades of Grey (thirty pages in and I had to put it down because of how awful the writing was. Sorry Grey fans!). I like busy. I like having projects to work on… meetings, deadlines, things that create a sense of accomplishment.
As I type this, it does occur to me that having down time isn’t a bad thing either. I’m always go-go-go that sometimes I forget to chill. Watching TV even becomes something that gets in the way of work. I feel guilty when I’m not checking my three email accounts (maybe someone sent me a message I have to respond to RIGHT NOW). It’s a problem… But one that I’m aware of at least. Balance is what I constantly strive for. I don’t think I’ve found it yet. Actually, I know I haven’t. I want it though… Whatever “it” is. I’ll figure it out one day.
I guess my real down time comes when I’m able to work on a blog post. It’s when I stop worrying about calendars, clients and money and focus on a single creative task. Over the winter, I did most of my recipe development in the shower or on our couch sipping on mugs of coffee. Someplace warm and cozy. Now I do it on long walks with Maki. Typically this isn’t what I set out to do when I take her around the block to relieve herself, but often I return with an urge to cook. Maybe I’m just hungry.
This shrimp toast and mango butter came to me last week while on an exceptionally long, hot and sweaty walk. As Maki trotted along with her tongue sticking out, a list of available ingredients in our fridge ran through my mind. Most were things I had worked with recently. Asparagus, fiddleheads, tomatoes. And then… mango. The night before, Eric had said that we needed to do with it. That’s when it hit me… Mango Butter. Spicy mango butter. On bread topped with shrimp. Done.
As I open the door I’m greeted by Maki’s wagging tail. In no mood to play, I do my best to brush her away, but our sweet dog’s persistance wins me over. Fine… just a few minutes. She guides me into the living room so we can roll around on the floor. Soon, she has me pinned down and I get attacked with a few licks of her tongue, leaving long streaks of slobber across my glasses.
Exhausted, I call it quits and get my body off the ground. Maki, disappointed, retires to her bed. She wonders if maybe, just maybe, I’ll come back to play with her. Sorry pup, I’m finished for the night. It’s time to make dinner… and mix a drink.
After a long day, the kitchen becomes my sanctuary. Before any onions are chopped, I throw a few rocks into my glass. An aperitif is in order to ease into a relaxing night of nothingness. I whip up my old standard: a Negroni. An equal pour of the three ingredients, a quick stir, and we’re in business.
Before the drink hits my lips, I shave a piece of orange peel and rim the glass with it. The result is subtle, but effective. The aroma of the citrus breathes life into the Negroni, but a bitter herbaceousness is present in the first sip, mellowed only by the sweet vermouth. Another taste and my mind is no longer thinking of work and the stresses of my day. I’m in the here and now.
The onion and garlic sizzle as they hit the pan of butter. I rub my hand across my perspiring forehead, only to look down to see the glass sweating as well. You and me both, my friend. I pick up my drink. Cheers. Sip. Smile.