There are a bunch of things in my life; work, family (including my amazing husband Saul, pictured with me above), friends, and a variety of hobbies. Most of them are self-sustaining; I don’t have to remind myself to incorporate them or make time for them. I just do. There are a few things, however, that I often allow to fall by the wayside, and at the beginning of each new year I regret that I didn’t make time last year, and promise myself I will remember to this year. It doesn’t usually happen.
One of those things is documenting the cooking I do. One of them is art. Hence, this Food and Fine Art blog!
I like to cook, and I do it fairly often. Moreso now that I have my own household and am responsible for keeping our food budget. Eating out or having fast food all the time is unhealthy and costly. Cooking is better for us and our pocketbooks… so that is what I do.
One food thing I really like to do is buy frozen meats in bulk. I know, I know; this summons up visions of freezer burn, right? But no! These are high quality meats, vacuum sealed in individual servings, some of it pre-marinated and some of it plain. The flavor and texture are guaranteed for twelve months. A ~$450 order will last us about six months; that is $75 a month for meat for three adults. And they are delivered to my door by a man driving a freezer truck, who shows me the contents of the boxes before he leaves. So I know I am getting what I asked for.
I frequently freeze other things, too; bacon, butter, etc. By in bulk, thaw as needed. When I buy canned or dry goods, I try to get more than I need. If I need two cans of coconut milk, I’ll get four or six; that way, next time I need coconut milk I don’t have to go to the store. I try to keep shelf-stable milk in the house for cooking purposes, too, so we only need fresh milk for drinking. I get the big bags of rice, oatmeal, flour, sugar, etc. They are less wasteful of packaging and more cost-effective.
I don’t yet have a handle on bulk purchasing the other staples I buy regularly. Cheese, for example. Eggs and fresh milk. I still need trips to the grocery store for these sorts of items. I suppose I could freeze cheese- I haven’t tried- and I know I could freeze egg substitute and milk, but… well, six months’ worth meat kind of takes up all the space I have in my freezer. We plan to get a small chest freezer, but that won’t be for a while yet. The upside is I only need a few things, and they are all around the edges of the store, so my trips are light and quick.
Another food thing I have wanted to do for a long time is to start getting a CSA box. What is better than weekly, fresh, local produce without having to go to a grocery store (less fresh, almost certainly not local) or a Farmer’s Market (time consuming)? I pick up my box at the local drop-off site, check off my name on the list, and walk away. Less than two minutes, just a few blocks from my house. And it costs about $90 a month for a weekly box.
Opening the box when I get home is like Christmas but with vegetables. I never know what will be in there, or how I am going to cook it. So far, there has always been something in there that made me say to myself “What is that?” and head for the laptop. My CSA’s website has a list of what is supposed to be in the box that week, and that helps. It also has a list of all their seasonal produce, with pictures, so you can match what you have in your hot little hands with the names of the things in the pictures.
So I end up dredging the reaches of the internet to figure out how to cook these unfamiliar things. I try to cook using the ingredients I have in the house, rather than stopping by the store for one or two things, so I often adapt the recipes I find. And weeks or moths later, when I want to make that thing again, I never remember what I did- and it turns out disappointingly different. So my plan is to keep a record of the original recipe- or recipes- and the changes I made. And maybe what I thought of it, so I can start trying to improve the ones that don’t come out so great.
I have a knack fro drawing and painting. And I really enjoy doing it, and I always wish I had time to do more of it- but I don’t. I often talk about setting up this or that corner of the house as a studio- but I don’t. I often sketch out pictures I get in my head that really ought to be made into full sized or full color pieces- but I don’t. And then people see some silly doodle on a napkin and say ‘Oh, you’re an artist! Wow, why don’t you do this for a living?‘
First of all, it bugs me when people are surprised I am artistic. It is such a fundamental part of who I am, how I approach the world, and how I think about myself that I can’t entirely figure out why other people aren’t aware of it when they look at me. I know, that isn’t fair to them, which s why I never say anything about it when it happens. But it always throws me and puts a damper on whatever mood I was in.
Second of all, who says having a talent means you have to make your living by it? I have other talents too, and I make my living by those. Am I supposed to have two careers?Suppose I had a talent not considered salable? I mean, I don’t mind people asking me the question. What I do mind is when people argue with me about it. “But you’re wasting your talent!”
No, I’m not. My talent provides me a hobby I enjoy, that other people like to see and hear about, and that enhances many aspects of my life. It isn’t wasted, I use it all the time… I just don’t use it the way those people thing I ought to. Why would I want to make my living as a fine artist? I mean, props to people who do, because it is hard. You have to paint things people like enough to spend money on. You can’t count on a novelty idea or something, because fads pass. You know what seems to make the most money? Abstract art. I hate abstract art. It doesn’t look like anything, and there is no goal. You just have to hope the composition of colors and textures is a pleasing to someone else as it is to you. You can adjust and tweak to try to get just the right feel, but then you have to worry about crossing that line- the one you can never see coming that defines the difference between a detailed, interesting painting and a muddied, overworked one. I’ve done abstract pieces. I never like them as much as I like the pieces that are supposed to look like something else, so that -in my own mind at least- I can identify a job well done.
In addition, I’m my own toughest critic. I know that. But suppose I did something I really, really liked and was proud of, and some idiot art critic -who probably can’t draw a straight line- decided he or she didn’t like it? Me, I’ve got a temper. Art is so subjective, I can mostly let people have their own opinions. But someone dissing something I worked hard on, that turned out ‘right’ to my way of thinking… no, I don’t care to think about what I would do.
Plus art as a career is stressful. Can I find a gallery that will hang my art? Can I get my pieces into shows? Will they be well enough attended to sell my work? Am I pricing it right? Or am I pricing it too high? Is it not selling because I priced it too high, or because it isn’t good, or because I am showing it to the wrong audience? Will I get the piece done in time? What if the weather turns wet and the paint doesn’t dry fast enough? Will the client like it? Will I like it? What if the commission is to paint something I don’t want to paint? That would happen if I was using art to pay the bills; there would come a time when I needed money and a commission came along that I wasn’t enthused by. Paintings never turn out well when I feel unenthusiastic about the subject. So, I do a mediocre job and the client is unsatisfied, thus damaging my reputation. Or worse yet, I do what I consider a bad job, and the client is pleased and displays it in his or her home- with my name on it!
Besides, if I had to do it, would I still enjoy my art? Maybe. I am good at teaching kids, and doing it as a job doesn’t make me hate kids. But… with art, I think maybe not. It is the reason I so rarely offer custom art pieces as gifts; people so often ask for something that I don’t care to draw, or want it drawn in a way I think is unattractive. And I go ahead and do the piece, because I promised, but I don’t enjoy it. And I think that shows in the final product. They might be technically fine, but I feel like they don’t glow the way they should.
But not wanting to do art professionally doesn’t mean I don’t want to cultivate the talent, develop my skill, and make it into a regular part of my life.
The fact is, I am busy. Part of the reason I don’t keep up with these things is that I don’t have a ton of free time for them. But I think aiming for one art post and one cooking post per week, both with pictures, is reasonable. Just that. I won’t commit to a particular day, or a minimum length, or anything else.
I guess we’ll see how it goes.