January 30th

spices, board!

I spent a couple hours in the kitchen last night cooking this soup. While measuring out the spices, chopping the vegetables and sipping a rather nice glass of Shiraz, I spent a bit of time thinking about art, crafting and my creative process.

sweaty eggplant

Have you heard of Zen cooking? Lynne Rosetto Casper, my Saturday cooking buddy, discussed this a bit recently. Essentially it means you get so into the recipe, the ingredients, the flavors, that you enjoy the process more than the food. You cook to cook, not to eat. I felt that way last night.

chopping block

It’s kind of like being the “zone” with exercise. Every now and then, I pull on my running shoes, stretch my hamstrings and find myself smiling while making my way down the dusty canal. The wind whips by, the birds chirp and the stars align to create the sort of run that you won’t soon forget. You are fast and it seems effortless.
I’ve rarely found this in crafting. While the monotony of knitting is meditative, I’m never without worry that I have, or will, drop a stitch. Sewing is a bit stressful too. I’m terrible at patterns. I try and try and then try again, but ultimately, I have to see someone do something to master it myself. My seam ripper is getting dull.
I don’t think I’ll find the zen of art + craft until I slow down and remember what it is I love about being at my sewing machine. Is it the end product, or the process? Why create 15 wristlets with sloppy zippers when one perfect pouch incorporating a new technique would make my heart soar? Less is more.

spicy peanut ginger soup

Like I said, soup and pondering. And maybe a bit too much wine.

Posted in
Domestic Art, Journal, Recipes
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26 Responses

  1. Mmmmmm… I was tempted by that recipe and wondered how it was. It looks delicious! I agree with you about the zen of cooking – there is nothing else I can do that puts me into that zone. You have explained it perfectly.

    As for the wine… is there such a thing as too much!? Oh, I suppose. . .

  2. First, the soup looks yum. I might try it out.

    Second, I totally know what you mean about process vs product. I have this thing about creating items in bulk – I love it because it lets me create an efficient process, repeat it multiple times and come out with a pile of beautifully similar items.

    However, the times when I go outside of my comfort zone to try a new technique (ahem…cable knitting, intarsia, socks, clothes from patterns that I actually plan to wear in front of people) I feel like a million bucks.

    However you enjoy cooking or crafting – whether in the process or the end result, it’s always worth it.

  3. mmm…the soup looks delectable. i enjoy the process of baking more than cooking…perhaps because it usually is more precise. for sewing, i think the frustrations and difficulties are part of the process…and though i may not enjoy it, hopefully i learn a little bit with each mistake. i LOVE the process of knitting, but sadly i am rarely able to knit more than a few rows at a time because of my hands, so i can’t enjoy the meditative state (or get very far with any projects!) anyway, speaking of frustrations, i was battling the CD holder from in stitches last night. that timtex gets me every time! hopefully i’ll have something to show soon…

  4. Sometimes I get so caught up in the process of “just getting it done” and forget about the “why I do it.” I have been trying to slow down an enjoy, so the “why” can get a little more attention. For me, it is a combination of the process and completion that makes me feel good.

    Yummy looking soup. It is only 22 here today, so anything warm is perfect!

  5. That veggie stew sounds amazing, I wish I had all the stuff for it. And I LOVED the times article, thanks for sharing that link!

  6. What a lovely and poetic post. Great photos too. It’s important to take a moment out to try to pinpoint just what kinds of things in our lives give us this sheer joy, just for the fact of “being” and enjoying the process. Life doesn’t often give us opportunities to do this, we have to make them ourselves!

  7. Philosophical cooking…it even looks delicious too!

  8. yum. soup. i’ve been way into soups lately. unfortunately, i don’t think joe would eat this one. (he’s so picky!) i think it looks delish.

  9. Hmm, interesting thoughts. I occasionally get into the zen of crafting, but it is usually the first time I try something new and all goes well. I must admit that I get way more satisfaction out of the planning phases of my crafts than I do from the actual execution.

  10. I think the Zen of Crafting needs to be written. I nominate you as it’s author, Kell! 🙂

    I wish I could feel such good fuzzy feelings in my kitchen, but as I’ve mentioned’s just not where my hearts at. If only there was a “do-over” button in the kitchen! At least when something crafty is wonky – that seam ripper can make sense of it. I’m afraid when chicken is overcooked…well it’s done overcooked (as I discovered just last night!!)

  11. I like the thought of pondering & wine….pondering about crafting & drinking wine while cooking soup. If that isn’t zen, I don’t know what is. 🙂

  12. i love your cooking posts… last night i made cookies (not the ginger ones, unfortunately… i got persuaded by the non-ginger-loving spouse to do carrot instead… but soon!) and i felt that zone feeling. it was really nice and super-rare for me to find it in cooking, which often stresses me out.
    and you’re right about the art + craft zone, when you try something new and it works and you know that you put the effort in to make it good… there is nothing like it!

  13. kelli

    i made that soup the other day and it was delicious! there is a book called the Zen of Knitting about just that…the zen of knitting. Tich Naht Hahn also has some wonderful books about zen and the art of just being, he has a chapter on enjoying a cup of tea that i think about every time i have some.

    as for sports, getting into that zone is the best–on a bike, run, or in the pool–it’s great when it feels effortless and your mind draws a perfect, in-the-moment blank. would that we could be there all the time…

  14. great post, Kelli. Your description of your evening, stirring together soup ingredients, measuring out spices and chopping, while drinking wine and pondering, has made me long for winter and a cold, dark afternoon to do just that on. i’m bookmarking that recipe!

  15. I finally realised last year, after being pushed into thinking about it by one of my uni lecturers, that I’m very much a process person — it’s why I love printmaking and knitting so much. It’s not really about the finished product for me, but the processes involved in finishing the product. It gives me time to think about things, whether I’m doing it consciously or not. I talked about it more last year in this blog post and this one as well.

    I used to be terrified in knitting about dropping stitches too, until I discovered how to pick them up with a crochet hook. Now I always carry one with me. You can also deliberately drop certain stitches this way to fix things like miscrossed cables and whatnot — I’m much more relaxed with my knitting now!

  16. Damn. Dunno why that link isn’t working. Maybe just posting the link will…?

  17. I hear ya! I’ve been taking a little break from the whole crafting thing lately so I can get that zen feeling back, and not feel like I always have to finish a project as quickly as possible! My poor craft blog is suffering…but it’ll be better for my creativity in the long run!

  18. The process is good, I will agree. I also like standing back and seeing the friends fruits of my labor (whether cooking or writing or gardening or whatever!) Sharing my accomplishments makes them that much more rewarding.

  19. What a beautiful post. I was reading along and nodding about the greatness of those moments when things really click and all is right with the world.

    I wonder though if we have our ‘zen things’ and it’s somewhat unproductive to try to make other things too zen. I guess I’m the opposite. Cooking is always work for me, even when I’m making something that I really enjoy. I always have to think about it and it’s always product-oriented. I want those cookies and I want them now! But knitting, give me some plain stockinette and worsted wt yarn and I’m perfectly content to let a few hours slip by. I’ve always felt like cooking _should_ be more zen-like and inspired in my house. After all, wouldn’t Martha be horrified to know that I don’t like chopping veggies? But are we pushing our luck if we try too hard to make something our ‘zen thing’ when the universe never intended it to be? Do we only get a certain number of things that click in our individual worlds? Maybe we’re supposed to balance each other out, each contributing our ‘thing’ for the greater good and enjoying the fruits of others’ ‘things’?

    Maybe I should just go get myself some wine and stop pondering the mysteries of the universe!

  20. Zen cooking for me means I put something on the stove, I stand elsewhere in the kitchen and zone out for a while, and then realize half my kitchen is on fire.

    Soup looks mighty tasty, though.

  21. Someone said that it’s the journey that really counts, not the final destination of a trip. I think it’s just right, the better part is doing something not just staring at the result!

  22. One of the reasons I so enjoy reading your blog is that you are so mindful (very Zen) of most everything you do–whether it’s cooking, sports, your work (both paid and volunteer), and so on. This is not only refreshing but also a reminder to me to pay attention to the small as well as big things in life. Thank you for your thoughtful postings.

  23. I just rediscovered crafting after years of having put it on the back burner. Well, I made my first apron for a swap last weekend. It took so much concentration to do that I found myself blocking out all other thoughts. When the weekend was over, I really felt like I had been away. I was in the zone! Now, a couple of the seams are a bit wonky. I thought about taking a seem ripper to them in an effort to make them perfect, but I decided against it. First of all it’s an apron not a prom dress! Second of all, I don’t want to stress perfection while I am trying to recultivate a creative side. There should be joy in the journey. Great post!

  24. mmmmmm zen cooking… by yourself, enjoying the smells and reading while whatever you are making is baking in the oven…….

  25. After reading all of the comments, I may have just figured out why I get blocked and bogged down when I’m doing crafty projects — it’s because I’m not in the moment. I’m very focused on the end result instead of enjoying the moment. Cool!