Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dinner and Dancing

I spend so much time thinking about food.  I love food.  I do. On top of all the thinking about the food, I spend almost as much time shopping for it, preparing it, serving it and eating it!  I cook for my family, for my friends, for my running team - pretty much anyone. My kitchen is the heart of my house.  Food is a passion... So is dancing... I spent my whole life dancing and there is something remarkable about what happens to your body when you hear music begin to play.  Even babies are compelled to move when they hear music... we are born to move.  So it would stand to reason that my kitchen doubles as a dance hall. 

On the surface, it may appear that cooking and dancing don't inherently go together... but at my house, there is no distinction.  It's very simple, you cook, you dance (and sing).  My girls and I keep an iPod player there for what we lovingly refer to as "dinner dance party time" or DDPT.  I don't have any scientific proof, but I am pretty sure that when I play loud music and cook, the food tastes better...  In between seasoning, peeling potatoes or carrots, stirring pots, and drying dishes my girls and I twirl and shake and sing at the top of our lungs. 

I even have play lists for cooking... for those of you who follow my blog, you know I also keep play lists for running.  One of my favorites is my "Island" mix that is played when we make Tapas, Tacos, fish or anything where I get to use citrus seasoning... Some songs on that one are "Toes" by Zach Brown Band, "Kokomo" by the Beach Boys, and about a dozen Bob Marley songs.  When I make salsa, yep, you guessed it, salsa music... Celia Cruz Guatanamera, Salsa Brava, and Carlos Santana "Oye como Va."   I have to use my Spanish Language minor or I'll lose it!  The girls are not only learning how to slice tomatoes but how to do a perfect open form hammerlock!

Another favorite is my "Hot Damn" mix for when I cook spicy food... it has songs with the word "Fire" or "Hot" in the title.  Some examples are "I'm on Fire" by the Boss, "Sex on Fire" by Kings of Leon, "Light my Fire" the Doors, "Sleep Now in the Fire" by Rage Against the Machine, and Hot Tottie by Usher.  It always inspires a nice mix of spicy seasonings and I never measure them... it's all on the fly!

In the sake of full disclosure, some play lists have not been as well received... the opera for organic lasagna night left my girls saying, la melodia stonata, mama!  When I attempted Sarah Brightman's "Con te partirò".  And who can forget the Lil Wayne Debacle of 2010 when the eff bomb was unexpectedly dropped during what I thought was a radio friendly version of "Knockout" in the middle of making chocolate chip muffins with the girls.  My audience inspires all kinds of music.  When I cook for Kim, it's all country or 80's pop, "A Little Bit Stronger" by Sarah Evans or some "Heaven is a Place on Earth" by Belinda Carlisle.  With Casey, it's rap and R&B like Grenade by Bruno Mars, Animal by Ke$ha, or My Life Would Suck Without You by Kelly Clarkson.  When we made Cinnamon Rolls and the girls had to knead the dough, they requested Irish Rock to the tune of Dropkick Murphy's "Shipping Up to Boston."  It fueled some hard hitting dough beat downs of epic proportions. 

When it's just me, I rock some Amos Lee, Bonnie Raitt, Jonny Lang, Joe Purdy, Van Morrison and Ray LaMontagne.  I love a mean guitar riff and it is the perfect kind of music to cook to... I have even been known to grocery shop with my iPod.  Always on shuffle just to see what comes up... Sometimes a song will inspire a meal...
I have an amazing all piano list I like to listen to when I make meals that take time and have specific preparation or remind me of my grandma.  Sweet Escape by Paul Cardall is a favorite.  Listening to that song while I chop vegetables or bake bread reminds me of my grandma Adams and how her cooking brought the whole family together.  Holidays of years past, everyone crammed around the table elbows rubbing together, laughter, and warmth, heads bowed in a moment of thanks.  Those smiles shared with family brought together from all over the country for precious hours a few times a year were enough to sustain us.  When we'd leave with our containers of leftovers, I always felt like we were taking the memories of that day home with us... it meant so much.  Wrapped up in the smells, the sounds and those precious moments I feel like she's nearby. 

I want my legacy in the kitchen to be the same thing for my girls.  I want them to remember how they feel when I pick them up from school or daycare and announce in the car that it's DDPT time when we get home and their faces light up and the wiggle in their seats calling out song requests on our drive home.  I want to cherish seeing their smiling faces as they toss noodles into water or pour milk into the batter all while singing at full volume and how the whole room feels completely full when we are together like that. I want them to recognize the value of investing themselves in the ritual of food.  I want them to value and appreciate the idea of eating well, eating healthy, and making it a fun and enriching time spent with people you love.  Those moments get me through those hard days when the kitchen is empty and quiet... I can feel them there, hear their bubbling laughter and be reminded of how truly blessed we are to have each other.
I blog about the rules of eating clean, break down the glycemic index, and avoiding additives, and I believe that all of those things are important to know... but you don't need to learn them overnight.  If there is one rule you follow and you start today, make meal time a special time where you make the food together and then actually sit together as a family to eat.  And NOT in front of the television or in the car rushing to the next place you need to be.  Take a breath, take a moment, look each other in the eye... appreciate the time...because it will pass by so very quickly.  And while you are together in those few precious moments each day find a song, turn it up, and bust a few hot dance moves on the dance kitchen floor.