The Comforts of Home

There’s a moment when you look around and realize several things:

1. You’re getting married in eleven days.

2. Even though you say you’re fine, you’re talking really fast and sort of high pitched.

3. You haven’t slowed down in days.

4. Suddenly things like not being able to curl your hair correctly or forgetting to put dinner in the crock pot are REALLY BIG DEALS.

That’s right friends. That moment. And I’m in it. I’m getting married in eleven days, and shit is getting real.

My latest wedding dream? I’m so glad you asked. I dreamed that Amanda saw a wedding involving a bride who held a cast-iron pot, an officiant who lit a piece of paper on fire inside the pot, and the groom, who extinguished the flame with water from a clay jug. Amanda said we should do something like that, and I awakened after a vision of me holding my cast-iron skillet, smearing a black streak of cast-iron seasoning onto my otherwise gorgeous dress.

This is a fantastic, amazing, tremendously frantic time. We get married in eleven days, and ten days after that, we’re moving cross-country to California. Several people last week pointed out that some of the most stressful, “biggest” life changes are getting married and moving, especially long distances. We’re doing both in the span of a month.

Apple-Butternut Squash Soup - it only LOOKS like baby food.
Apple-Butternut Squash Soup – it only LOOKS like baby food.

When we got home from Boston on Sunday, after four days of overwhelming AWP time, bumping into introverts, questioning my self-worth, doubting my decisions in life, and then ultimately feeling inspired and pumped up (I’ll thank Jeanette Winterson for that), I was exhausted. I took Dramamine on the plane to avoid the new awesome thing my body does – motion sickness – so I was extra tired. And even though my energy level was fading and I wanted nothing more than to lie in bed and watch Hoarders, we knew we had to eat. Amanda (wonderful soul that she is) went to the store so I didn’t have to put a bra back on, and when she got home, I cooked us butternut squash soup.

As I chopped squash and apples, mixed cayenne and cumin and ginger and salt, as I stirred and simmered, I felt renewed and calmed. I was in my happy place, my safe place – my kitchen. I had control over the universe. My brain slowed down just a tiny bit.

And I realized something – I’m going to be away from my kitchen for A MONTH. I won’t be able to cook. I won’t be able to slip away into that middle space between the kitchen floor and my imagination where thought becomes clearer and movements become automatic.

I’m going to miss that.

Big, beautiful changes are happening. I’m getting married, something I sort of thought wouldn’t happen for me. I’m moving to California, something I definitely thought wouldn’t happen for me.

Straight up comfort food.
Straight up comfort food.

With that reality, I have identified a need in my life:  I need comfort food. I’m sure some brides diet the week before their wedding, and believe me, I’m not going nuts (I want the dress to fit, after all), but I’m eating the things that make me feel homey and safe and warm and centered. Fresh tomato slices, drizzled with balsamic and olive oil, sprinkled with salt and a little pepper. Grilled cheese with bacon and tomato slices. Homemade granola with tangy Greek yogurt and plenty of honey drizzled on top. Tonight for dinner, Moroccan chicken thighs over a bed of fluffy couscous.

This is partly my way of squeezing out my last bits of comfort in my kitchen before I love that processing place, that space where I feel at home and graceful and confident. And it’s partly a way of rubbing my back and soothing myself in moments where the to-do list seems too big, the move too soon, the caffeine not enough.

This week, I need grilled cheese. And Girl Scout cookies. And fresh baked bread. And all the comforts of home.

Apple-Butternut Squash Soup

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart (Click link for original recipe)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 4 apples (I use Granny Smith and Golden Delicious – feel free to substitute your own favorites), peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon, plus pinch, cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 1/2 cups water, plus more if needed
  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Add squash, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together spices, salt, and pepper.
  2. Add apples, spice mixture, stock, and the water (just enough to cover). Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until vegetables are very soft, about 30 minutes.
  3. Puree in batches in a food processor or blender until smooth, and return to saucepan. Heat over low, thinning with more water if necessary. To serve, ladle into shallow bowls; garnish as desired with chopped apples, jalapeno slices, or Greek yogurt (particularly helpful if you want to take a bit of the spice off). This soup is excellent alongside a slice of fresh homemade bread, toasted, buttered, and sprinkled with sea salt and herbs.

13 thoughts on “The Comforts of Home

  1. Breathe deep and try to take it all in. Before you know it, all the excitement will pass and you’ll only have the memories! And, if you’re like me, you’ll miss the stress (just hopefully not enough that you want to do it all over again!). If we don’t speak again in the next 11 days, good luck & congratulations!

  2. Big, big congratulations! I remember the couple weeks before my wedding two years ago I needed all the comfort food I could get. I cried over nothing, and I had wedding dreams constantly. I think it’s pretty normal. The second I walked down the aisle, all the anxiety, dreams, and tears over nothing disappeared, and I know they will for you too. Enjoy these next 11 days, and have an amazing, miraculous wedding day!

    1. Thanks, Samantha! As my friend Mary said, I’ll never be engaged again! The crying over nothing has been really special. There have been way too many tearful moments of me feeling silly and embarrassed and saying, “I just don’t feel prettyyyyyyyy.” A mess. A hot damn mess. 🙂

  3. Thanks so much for this blog post, Dana – I felt quite tearful as I read your words of honest struggle amid the joy of seeing dreams coming true and the way you move that into the kitchen and find space and calm while cooking – a grounding. For me that feeling comes while walking. I wish you so much happiness – and I can’t wait to try this recipe for apple butternut squash soup!!!

  4. Kinda the best thing about this is that Movita probably really DID pee her pants. So…stress reliever? Laughter break in the middle of the action? Either way, good.
    Listen: the two weeks before my wedding…i’m pretty sure i blocked those weeks from my permanent memory. Or rather, i remember the good things about them – bits and pieces of fun – but the stressy stuff is gone. What you WILL remember, i promise, is the actual day you get married. Get the crazies out of the way in time for the big day, and you’ll be good.
    Then, of course, there’s the big move (!!) but i bet that it’s the same for that too. Eat the grilled cheese. Enjoy the comfort of soup and things that warm you. You do need that.

    1. Movita is one of my favorite comedic distractions! 🙂
      Thanks for the encouragement, Shannon! I love having a blog family to celebrate with me and talk me off the occasional ledge.

  5. “as I stirred and simmered, I felt renewed and calmed. I was in my happy place, my safe place – my kitchen. I had control over the universe. My brain slowed down just a tiny bit.” This hit SO close to home. I used to go to therapy (really) and now I just to got my kitchen. It’s amazing what that muscle memory can do for your overall well being. I know you’ll miss it over the next month, but what an adventure. Cheers and best of everything to you both!

    1. Thanks, Rachel! I’m also a therapy (survivor? Visitor? Veteran?) and I find that the therapeutic properties of the doctors office translate beautifully (and somewhat less expensively) in the kitchen.

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