I was talking to my mom yesterday about how hard it all is sometimes - being responsible for the day-to-day, the nitty-gritty, the care and feeding of a family and a home and a marriage. She listened as I unpacked my overwhelm, frustration, disappointment. She sat quietly while I pressed tear-soaked lashes into the back of my hand.
Then she said, with fictional-character wisdom and a smile, "When you cook from scratch, your garbage really stinks."
It took me a minute to understand that she wasn't just talking about food - since we had been talking about food, among other things.
Food prepared at home, with care, from whole foods is wonderful in so many ways. It's almost always the more healthful, less expensive option. I believe it nourishes on a level that packaged, commercially prepared food does not - and can not.
I cook everything I can from scratch. It's a lot of work, and meals - planning, shopping for, preparing, serving, cleaning up after - take up most of my time. But doing it like this feels non-optional to me. In a way, I worship at "kitchen church," where kneading dough is meditation, stirring soup is prayer. It's not quite by accident that the only two religious images in my home (both the Virgin Mary) reside above the stove and above the kitchen sink, respectively.
So there's all this love and light, feeling frugal, feeling healthful that goes into cooking from scratch. But, as my mom says, the garbage stinks. Vegetable trimmings rot, grain sours, bread molds, and don't get me started on the odors that cooked-from-dry beans emit when left to languish in the fridge! There is no (cooking) light without darkness, as it were.
Of course, my mom wasn't talking about cooking from scratch. Well, she was, but she was talking about combining the ingredients of your life. The time, the energy, and the caring that go into parenting from scratch, building a marriage from scratch, and running a household from scratch have a dark side, too: the stench of frustration, anger, disappointment, and sadness. Bad days. "One of those days"-days.
I'm absolutely in love with the garbage analogy as a way of re-framing my negative thoughts and emotions. Cooking the way I do, I get hit with the good/bad, tasty/stinky balance every day. It feels so unusual to treat negativity as a waste product of something (a life) that is mostly positive. Anger and depression are the onion skins and carrot tops. Everything else is the stew. (Kind of like "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger," only with less killing and more nourishing.)
Most comforting of all, however: onion skins and carrot tops, when left out in the open, will break down and, in time, effectively disappear.