Last week’s meals:

  • Monday: Chicken enchiladas, using Hatch green enchilada sauce and home-made tortillas, stuffed with leftover rotisserie chicken sautéed with onions and spicy pepper relish, and topped with crumbled cotija cheese. 
  • Tuesday: Pizza (on a purchased GF crust), with pesto, artichoke hearts, black olives, goat cheese, mushrooms, Tillamook mozzarella, and Italian herbs. 
  • Wednesday: Quiche (in a purchased GF pie shell) with carmelized onions, mushrooms, chicken-apple sausage, spinach, kale, and cheddar cheese. 
  • Thursday: Shrimp tacos, with shrimp marinated in jerk seasoning and spiced rum, then sautéed with tomatoes and red onions; on home-made tortillas, with cilantro, avocado, and tangy cabbage slaw.
  • Friday: Spicy rice with sausage, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and greens. 
  • Saturday: Cod and kimchi stew served over rice. 
  • Sunday: Double-pork carnitas tacos, on home-made tortillas, with tomatillo salsa verde, cilantro, white onion, and cotija cheese.

On Sunday, I had my head in the oven checking the doneness of my tomatillos, and I told Suzanne that I thought my cooking skill had leveled up. She laughed.

One month into my 2021 resolution of tracking my cooking, however, and I seem to be showing off for myself. Last week’s meals included three things I’d never made before the year began (enchiladas, quiche, and salsa verde). I did follow a recipe for the tomatillo salsa verde, more or less, but with the enchiladas and the quiche, I read some recipes to see how people did it, then I did my own thing.

The enchiladas were fine — even an audience more critical than an essential worker busy racking up the overtime hours wouldn’t have objected, I don’t think. But the quiche was fantastic. So were the carnitas tacos, so were the shrimp tacos, so was the cod and kimchi stew, which was clearly pushing some weirdness boundaries, but was spicy and tangy and quite yummy.

And I do think my cooking skill has leveled up, which is actually sort of a surprise. I don’t aspire to cook professionally, and short of that… well, suffice to say, I didn’t see a need to become a better cook. 🙂

The thing I noticed on Sunday, though, in the midst of a reasonably complicated cooking project, was that I wasn’t thinking about it. A few years back, if I’d been braising and broiling and blending, kneading and pressing, frying and chopping — all for the same meal! — I would have been calculating, too. I would have been thinking about timing and the order of events and what I needed to do first and how long it was going to take me. I would have been watching the clock, with a constant mental inventory running. Now, though, that math seems to have become pretty much instinctive, which is… well, a level up. It turns out that when you practice a skill a lot, it gets easier. What a surprise. (Picture me rolling my eyes at myself.)

I’m trying to remind myself that the same is true for writing. I’m calling the words I’m writing these days, “compost words.” I don’t know what’s going to grow out of them, but I’m working on writing them five days a week, with weekends off. And I’m feeling mildly optimistic, which makes for a nice change!