2010 was the year I really learned to cook. So when the 12/26 prompt asked, “Soul Food: What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?” several answers popped to mind.
I ate really well this year, better than ever before. There were fantastic meals at great restaurants that I remember fondly, but it was the casual lunch I ate alone in Coronado that is seared into my memory. After a morning of walking along the ocean, barefoot despite the chill (but oh-so-warm for a Chicagoan in February), watching the waves crash into the shore, I put my shoes back on and walked along the quaint little strip of downtown Coronado. I wanted fish tacos, and I wanted to sit outside, since I was returning to a snowy Chicago that evening. I passed a couple places that looked rather touristy and finally settled into Miguel’s Cocina, just off the main drag near the Hotel del Coronado (thanks, Mint.com for helping the memory). It was noon on a Friday, and I was the only one sitting outside – it was “chilly” by San Diego standards so the other patrons were all indoors. The sun felt so good on my winter skin, and I ordered a small pitcher of sangria to go with my tacos. The salsa was mild with just a hint of spice, and the chips were fresh and warm. The tacos were delicious – exactly what I didn’t know I was craving – well seasoned, perfectly portioned. They tasted like summer, as did the sangria. I people watched and planned and thought, and was very sad when I had to leave and grab a cab off the island, especially given that the evening meal was fast food at the airport.
But beyond the restaurant meals, learning how to cook and balance flavors and textures and high-quality ingredients has taught me how to feed the soul on a regular basis. In years past, cooking for myself meant soup and sandwiches and rice-a-roni, with the occasional venture into tacos or chili made from spice-packet recipes. As I’ve branched out, the things I cook now are truly nourishing and help provide some much needed balance and nutrition on busy days. I really look forward to dinner time when I have something good to eat. Looking at cooking as part of the entire eating experience – from planning, experimenting and execution to sitting down at the table with a glass of wine – is so much better than the nuked Trader Joe’s burrito eaten on the couch. It’s creative, and, when done properly, gives me multiple lunches and dinners for days when I don’t have the luxury of time.
How about you? What feeds your soul?