Does anyone else find it strange that slow has become a trendy buzz word these days? Instagram celebrities model their zen, slow living lives. (“Taking the time to greet the morning slowly from my yoga mat on this beautiful beach in Bali!”) Chefs and cookbooks encourage us to clear our evenings and embrace slow cooking and eating. Coffee shops all over the world are favoring slow bars with hand-poured coffee, steeping through the beans drip by slow drip, instead of fast and furious espresso machines. Lately I’ve even heard of slow schooling, giving kids time to explore and learn at their own pace instead of teaching to the next test. And you know what? These all sound great to me.
I’m not what I would describe as a slow person. (Unless we’re talking about physically slow… in that case, you must be referring to my brief but embarrassing year running Cross Country.) Normally, if I’m given a task, or if I see something that needs to be done, I like to do it promptly, and do it well. When working, I prefer to tackle a task immediately if possible, getting it done and moving on. I’m also a multitasker, married to a non-multitasker, and it’s taken him years to get me to sit and watch a movie with my full attention, without also doing something else like folding laundry, knitting, or flipping through a book. As you can imagine or as you may know yourself, being that type of a person around the clock can be exhausting, or at least slightly anxiety-inducing.
In this new season of life we’re in, we spend a lot of time at home. My current work situation involves a lot of planning, researching and staring at our laptop screens, which I can do from anywhere. We loved our last home and our last season, but it was a busy one – back and forth from work for both of us, weekly activities with our little guy, serving teams at church, dinners with friends, exploring England and the rest of Europe in our free time. This season hasn’t met that busyness yet, and in the day-to-day – even as things slowly pick up and the busy holiday season approaches – this fast-paced multitasker is embracing the idea of taking some things slowly.
I have something to tell you that I think really exemplifies this time for us, but I don’t want it to come off as preachy, so please bear with me here… Okay, we don’t own a microwave. 10 more minutes to heat it up in the oven instead? Go for it. We’ve got the time! And you know what? I miss it not at all. Although, I will admit it took me far too long to realize that the fastest way to melt butter for a recipe is to use a saucepan on the stove top. Duh, Leslie. Geesh. (FYI, butter in a bowl in the oven also works, but takes a lot longer. Once again: Duh.)
Now, in full disclosure, we mainly don’t have a microwave because I don’t want to sacrifice my oh-so-limited counter space for a big ol’ lunk of metal that I would also have to spend money on. Win-win-win. (”With win-win-win, we all win.” – The wise and wonderful Michael Scott).
I know our lives won’t always have this pace, that it is a blessing and a bit of a luxury for now. The season where I would see my husband for two hours or so a day before we crashed into bed is still fresh in my mind. But I think that’s what I’ve come to realize… When is time ever not a luxury? Grammarians, forgive my nots and negatives, but time is always something we should be using wisely, right?
If you know me well, or if you’re a discerning person, it will probably come as zero shock to you to find out I’m an incredibly impatient person. I know patience is a virtue, mainly because I’ve heard that reminder called out during my most unflattering times of impatience. “Patience is a virtue, you know!” Yes, thank you, Susan! That helps loads! – through gritted teeth. It’s my area of least virtue, maybe. My husband and I recently finished (binge) watching the first season of the show The Good Place. It’s weird and clever and hilarious; watch it. The characters occasionally mention what kind of torture they would personally experience in The Bad Place (a version of hell). Well, I think mine would somehow include:
– trying to quickly and purposely maneuver through a crowd of people who are meandering aimlessly, like blind turtles, blocking the entire path
– having to wait in a long line that never moves at a dismal place like the DMV with nothing but same-y Josh Groban loudly playing through the speakers (Terry and Kaitlin, I know you love his voice. I’ve tried. I just can’t.)
– getting stuck in traffic for no real reason at all for eternity but with cyclists constantly happily zipping by, tossing their heads back in laughter (I may be scarred from Cambridge driving)
– having to use old dial-up internet on a slow computer to accomplish some mind-numbing task like internet grocery shopping or bill-paying; bonus points if the internet disconnects or the website resets right as I’m about to check out (confession: NOT A FAN OF ONLINE SHOPPING)
– finally, being forced to go bra shopping for the rest of eternity without ever finding one that actually fits my anomolous body but still having to hang them all back up on those dumb hangers. (Also, instead of a changing room door, there’s one of those dumb curtains that never seems to be closed or secure enough. Hi, lady outside waiting impatiently for my dressing room. STILL NOT DONE.)
There’s a window into my soul, friends. Cast not the first stone.
But yes, a little impatient… but I’m working on it. I’m learning to settle in to slower rhythms when I can. The other day I turned on some music, flicked on the white twinkle lights in the kitchen, and made my late Grandma’s delicious Coffee & Spice Cookies. She was a brilliant cook, and many of my memories of her involve her old, cozy, carpeted kitchen with copper baking molds on the walls, her thin aproned frame with glasses lost atop her grey head as she bustled around, busy at work. She was born to host, create and entertain, make people feel welcomed and nourished. Her Coffee & Spice Cookies are soft, cakey and plump, with the slightest hint of coffee and autumn spice. They taste like how a familiar hug feels. I’ve made that recipe for years, but here’s a confession… up until recently I never, ever sifted the flour as dear Mary Lou suggested. To quote an internet legend, ain’t nobody got time for that. You know what else ain’t nobody got time for? Waiting for butter to soften to room temperature. Waiting for the oven to preheat. Waiting the suggested two hours for the cookie dough to chill. (One of my favorite cooks has a recipe for cookies that requires chilling the dough for 36 hours, and while I really do believe it will be as life-changing as she promises, I also absolutely know I do not have the self-control to wait long enough to find out.) Let’s see… What else? Waiting to let a finished roast rest after removing it from the oven. Kneading homemade pizza dough by hand. Waiting 30 minutes after eating to continue swimming. (Is that one even legit?) Waiting a full 5+ minutes for tea to steep.
But as I grow up (hey, it’s a process), and as I realize that one of my favorite hobbies is that of both my grandmothers – cooking and all that goes with it – I desire to do it well. To not just speed through the steps, but to enjoy the process. To watch, sift, stir, measure, follow the directions fully for the optimal result. To change the directions only for the sake of experimentation or improvement, not laziness. Too often I’ve ruined recipes only to later think, “That’s strange, I only subbed out 3 ingredients and didn’t let it come to room temperature and forgot to… and didn’t… and…”
While I don’t know everything about my grandmothers – they may have had unmet dreams outside the home that they set aside for their families, other gifts and skills they valued more, etc. – I do know that they loved their time in the kitchen and that they loved their families well through what they made. They sang and danced, invited us kids over to the stove and put us to work, tore out and tested recipes, scribbled down notes for next time, used new ingredients and flavors (some more memorable than others). It took their time. It took their attention. It showed their love, and you could definitely taste it.
And now, in this season, I find myself more and more drawn to the quiet kitchen, after everyone has settled down for the day. I boil the kettle, make myself a pot of tea, begin to gather ingredients as it steeps – the full five minutes. I do so carefully, intentionally, with love, just like Lois and Mary Lou, because it’s worth taking time to do things well.
I hope they’re proud that now I always take the time to sift the flour.