birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

One Pot, High Heat

I don’t know that I want to admit in writing too much in the way of rule breaking. Whichever rules I may be guilty of breaking would surely, I hope, fall into the category of victimless crimes, nevertheless, it’s probably a good idea to only confess to the more innocent ones.

I will admit to occasionally ignoring traffic signs in large parking structures, however. Is it illegal to ignore a Stop for Pedestrians sign in a shopping center lot when there are no pedestrians around? Must I obey a No Left Turn onto the aisle where I finally, finally see a parking space and there are no oncoming cars that would be endangered if I were to be the scofflaw and turn left anyway? I prefer to think of parking lot signs not so much as DMV traffic commands but more of suggestions on how to behave civilly while driving on private property. The one I do always obey is Handicap Parking Only. Parking there may not be a victimless crime, after all. Plus, it is often enforced by a large fine.

The area where I allow myself a lot of leeway to break rules is in cooking. When following recipes I frequently think, really? Do I have to do that part? I don’t want to do that part. What if I just do it another way?

Most of our cooking is recipe-free but when trying a new dish with a recipe to guide me, I often change things around right from the start. I leave out ingredients or substitute one for another. It may be that I forgot to buy something. Or I don’t like one ingredient. I resist completing the full directions if it goes on for too many pages.

I like to think I am streamlining the process. Making it more efficient. Why wash all those pots and bowls when you can cut out the half the steps? I suspect the true reason is because I am feeling too lazy to go the whole distance as spelled out on the page.

As time goes on, I find myself gravitating more and more toward dishes where everything goes into the pot at once. Slap on the lid, slide it into the oven and in 2 or 3 hours, it’s dinner. The resulting succulent stew is tender and the long simmering flavors provide a cover for steps and products I may have somehow left aside. A little chopped parsley for a burst of colorful garnish and no one will ever know.

High Standards

Go Until They Say No