Steve is away earning beer coupons, so we can keep doing this sailing thing. If you’ve been here for a while you know this is a kind-of-regular occurrence. By that I mean he spends 8-12 weeks of the year away working, just not necessarily on any regular or predictable schedule. This time however, it was a little more unpredictable than usual. The final approval for his job arrived only 18 hours before he flew out. Literally over sunset beers a few weeks ago I learned he would be gone before lunch the next day.
It is never the abruptness of his leaving that I find the most difficult. Or coming home to an empty boat or crawling into the bunk alone – although those two things suck, especially for the first few days…and then periodically while he is gone. I don’t mind the challenges of being on the boat by myself; being responsible for keeping all systems working, keeping the batteries topped up, putting the dinghy up at night, schlepping water from shore (tucked in a safe harbour the water is too silty to use our water maker).
What I really find hard is keeping myself well fed.
I know that sounds ridiculous, after all I write so often about my enthusiasm for cooking and my love of my time in the galley. But cooking for one brings me very little pleasure and eating alone is even less enjoyable. I guess this is how I have found myself standing over the sink eating out of a pot in the past, or at times will consider a thick slab of bread slathered in butter and a handful of cherry tomatoes a balanced meal.
I have said many times that anyone can cook. Even if, over the past few decades, we have forgotten how, we as a species have been doing it for thousands of years. It is coded into our DNA. You might have to learn how to release it, but the knowledge is there, inside you. I have also regularly said that anyone who eats can “taste the love.”
Corny? Maybe, but true.
When you cook for someone you are, on a most basic level, sustaining them. In other words, keeping them alive. This is showing that you care for them, and when you do it for friends and family it shows you love them.
Don’t get me wrong, I make an effort to take care of myself, especially when Steve is away. I dive into yoga and go for long walks, I go to bed early (ok, partially out of boredom), I watch what I drink and keep my mind busy. Yet somehow feeding myself well always slides out of the equation. Predictably after a few weeks of this I bottom out. I get moody and withdrawn, my enthusiasm for writing plummets, I catch myself binging on cat videos.
Not this time.
This time there have been pots of curried cauliflower soup with fresh coconut, and skillets of sausage and butter beans served with buttery mashed potatoes, and big batches of veggie fritters that make great leftovers for breakfast, reheated and served with a fried egg.
I have been keeping a regular yogurt making schedule and resurrected my stove-top granola recipe so that when I am having a lazy morning there is still something hearty to eat. Trying to use up the last of the seen-way-better-days carrots and some chicken stock that was on its last legs I made a gingery carrot soup, and then made a batch of bannock to slice up and dip in it. Today I took the breast and thigh meat off a whole chicken and used the rest to make a big pot of chicken stock for future meals. Then I made a pot of my curried chicken cassoulet for dinner tonight, and probably two more nights after that too.
And, I can taste the (self) love.
We aren’t at the half way mark yet, there is still some weeks before Steve returns and cooking is a joy again. But at least for now I am viewing it as a small effort that has a big reward rather than a mere chore. At least now I am well fed and not standing over the sink eating instant noodles.