My New Year’s Resolution was to perfect my curry. The Official Update: still a work in progress, but definitely closer. I’ve always loved the idea of the fresh start in January, but now that we’re headlong into February I’m parched for self-care.
As a compulsive list-maker what I found myself with was a pile of “Self-Care” duties shoved into my daily to-do list. They were well-meaning activities meant to enrich and revive myself: read an hour every night, do a weekly face mask, exercise 4 to 5 times a week, go for a long, brisk walk every day, write every day, sew some new clothes for myself, paint more, knit a toque that actually fits before the end of winter, get more Omega-3’s. Wonderful! Suddenly my notion of self-care had become a litany of looming obligations making my shoulders slump imperceptibly at the start of each day, the faintest whiff of defeat percolating each night. And added to that is each day’s trek up the mountain of What-To-Cook-For-Dinner. For this I had yet another list—this one of ideas for snacks, lunches, and dinners for the week. But every week my list is essentially the same as the last, going back for months and months. I don’t know why I bother writing it all down anymore.
However, I am still awake to the hopefulness of this new year so I realized that I needed to approach self-care in a totally different way. I saw that at the core of all the list-making, what I was truly craving was the simple need to be present in all things, to eke out a bit more joy where I could. Rather than adding endless hobbies and new habits to my schedule, I would generate some nurturing in the things that I have to accomplish many times a day, anyway. As such, every day for a week I would play with something that I was cooking to elevate it without adding anything elaborate. It only had to be a simple way to add a twist of something novel to what has become excruciatingly mundane. Also, I would light a candle while I cooked which seems very intentional and self-care-ish. I’d create a space for ritual, turning my task from a chore to treat.
Because we have smoothies a couple afternoons a week, we are all a little unimpressed by smoothies. But this week I learned that homemade cashew butter is incredibly easy to make, so I lit my candle, and switched it up by reaching for some Apple Spice.
While I was making the smoothies, I realized I already had all the ingredients out for breakfast, so I decided to make a batch of overnight oats right then and there. I used the same Apple Spice and my new absolute favourite cashew butter. In the morning, compliments all around the table! It was the Apple Spice Cashew Butter Swirl that won every heart.
This was inspired by my personal desire to cut back on dairy. I just used ingredients that I had on hand and this lunch on a gluten-free bagel has become my new-new favourite.
Day 4: What-To-Cook-For-Dinner?
With bizarre winter weather: snow, no-snow, ice, mild temperatures, freezing temperatures, it seemed obvious that for dinner it was going to be Summer-in-February. A simple dish of oven-roasted cherry tomatoes was suddenly bursting with flavour from Cajun Spice, olives and walnuts.
Day 5: I’m no barista, but.
In need of mid-morning caffeine, once I lit that candle I saw a perfect opportunity to switch out my usual black coffee with something decadent. I added Dessert Rose Sprinkle to my coffee grounds and foamed up some almond milk. It took the same amount of time as making my autopilot Americano, but it was pure joy.
Day 6: Popcorn
A bowl of popcorn turned gourmet with the addition of smoky sweet Mesquite Dry Rub. If you are invited over to our house to watch a movie and eat popcorn, this is the only way it will ever be served from now on.
Lucky enough to have organic rose petals in my spice drawer, meant I could effortlessly turn out something special: chopped pistachios, rose petals, shredded coconut. This was a Valentine’s gift for myself.
As my week progressed I saw that the decision to complete these daily tasks with care and a little extra attention truly re-energized me through the day. I was excited to cook and try things, and found each day I actually had some positive momentum to tackle those other things on my list: I exercised, I got outside, I read, I wrote more. I even found the time and the will to clean out our basement. Now, I can’t draw a direct line from eating chocolate bark to tackling this long overdue task, but what was revealed to me was that nurturing myself and my loved ones—cooking with intention—can be bridge where I am able to find a pathway to nurture some of my larger dreams and desires of vitality, creativity and presence. I just have to light that candle to lead the way.
by Nadia Ragbar