The most complicated and seemingly stressful undertakings can sometimes calm me down. It is the strangest thing. Most people, when embroiled in writing a dissertation, 18,000 blogs and doing lord knows what else, don’t think that making a massively involved dinner on a Friday after a full day of work is a particularly bright idea. Luckily, I never said I was bright.
There I was, having lived through a full day of procrastination, writer’s block, and lack of productivity, running manically from grocery store to liquor store to prepare a Spanish-themed dinner for the awesomeness that is my friend Kanchan. Kanchan was kind enough to give me a wonderful Spanish cookbook for my birthday, a Spanish equivalent of the Italian Silver Spoon. The ginormous and gorgeous book is filled with recipes that have quickly become house specials for me. Dates stuffed with almonds and wrapped in bacon? Umm, yea.
Really though, the dinner was all about paella, the most Spanish of all Spanish dishes. Here’s the thing with paella. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass. It involves all kinds of stocks and infusions and just, issues. I totally punked out of making the cookbook version of the paella, which boasted no less than two pages of directions (in small font), and opted instead for a recipe I pulled off Epicurious.
Still, it was a production, but one that I found calming me half way through the procedure. I started breathing a little slower and panicking a little less (still cursing just as much though. The cursing doesn’t seem subject to change). Even though my pan wasn’t the right size, even though I read snow peas when the recipe quite clearly stated sugar snap peas, even though I bought some Chernobyl-sized clams that refused to open even after extended cooking, instead of the little dainty clams I was meant to buy... Despite all that I felt more collected than I had the entire day.
Out of the oven the paella came, fragrant with saffron, shellfish and smoky spice from the chorizo and smoked paprika. It was great. We put as big a dent as two people could into a giant pan full of rice and seafood. We finished with some traditional crème caramel (the caramel portion of which may stay with my stove top forever. Caramel is a persistent bugger), poured the last of the second bottle of white wine for the evening and sat back. Because it hurt. Miraculously, I was calm and collected, having just run about like a chicken with my head cut off two hours prior. I don’t know if it was the bottom of the second bottle of wine, the cooking or the company, but I felt so much better. Stress can't compete with such a roster of pleasures.