One of my favourite things to do is write and cook at the same time. Like companion plants, for me these are companion activities. I find that where doing each one separately can leave me feeling frustrated in some way or exhausted, doing them together raises both my energy and creativity levels and helps me see connections I otherwise may have missed.
Today I am preparing shabbat dinner for my daughter E, my father, my aunt, my older brother and his wife. At the same time I am revising an adult novel that has sat in first draft form untouched on my hard drive for nearly a year while I concentrated on my memoir.
I'm finding the time away from the novel has given me the distance I required, so I can see a little more clearly what it needs and I'm quite excited by my new approach. I only hope I can pull it off.
I began my cooking with the challah dough.
First I mixed three cups of bread flour with a teaspoon of salt, a scoop of sugar, and a tablespoon of yeast. Then I added two eggs, a slurp of oil and about two-thirds of a cup of water.
I kneaded this - always the best part - and let it stand till it doubled in size. Then I weighed the dough and divided it into three equal portions. I rolled these into ropes, which I then plaited and laid on a baking sheet to rest.
When the loaf had doubled in size it was time to brush it with beaten egg and sprinkle it with sesame seeds
and bung it in the oven for about 40 minutes. At this stage the aroma made it difficult to concentrate on my work.
As a nineteen-year-old bride, one of the first things I learned to cook was traditional stuffing. My mother-in-law, who was an excellent cook, taught me, and I used to turn up to my university lectures with hands smelling of onion and garlic. I've been making it the same way ever since. Today I'm experimenting with a new method.
Before I began I squeezed my hands into rubber gloves so my skin wouldn't stink for the rest of the day- especially as I typed! I chopped half an onion, a stick of celery and a small garlic clove and softened them in a little margarine.
Then I whirled some stale bread in the food processor and added to this the cooked onion mixture, together with salt and pepper, parsley, sage and rosemary to taste, an egg and a little of my chicken soup to moisten. Then I squished it all together with my hands and stuffed it into the cavity of the waiting chook.
Along with chicken soup, challah, roast vegies and salad we should have a delicious meal. The pleasures of the company are of course assured.
Shabbat shalom to all.