If I had more time, I’d have more fun. (from Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way)
If you read I Have a Date!, (Part I), you’ll recall that I promised a chili lasagna recipe; that I even claimed it would be from a fictional character I’ve come to know. I keep promises, so I do have that recipe. But this really isn’t about my character, Ernest Biggs, or his lasagna— it’s about the fun I had with that idea, and with creating in the kitchen even as I refilled my “creative well”. I made an artist date, as defined and described in Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way (discussed in Part I). Cameron’s artist dates are a commitment to one’s self, to “assigned play”. Making lasagna qualified as an artist date because it was preplanned as ‘me-time’; was purposely playful, a time to keep my inner artist close even as I let her run amuck; was experimenting with an art form outside my wheelhouse, going where inspiration led; was being open to failing, which is the best way to learn new things.
I will tell you, the date was a success in many ways. I did keep Ernest (and Marge, she showed up too) in mind while getting reacquainted with the art of cooking, and know them better for it, but there was no pressure for a story. Just fun. We agreed that chopping vegetables with a knife at a cutting board is preferable to gadgetry and is a calming mindful activity. In her book, Cameron reminds us that any regular, repetitive action “primes the well”, and I was already well pleased with my date at the first onion cut for the chili. I had allowed myself this time, so could become absorbed in the simple rhythm of cutting onions and peppers. The assembly of the chili is where some creative turns were taken. This one had not my usual half a can of beer, but a bottle of chocolate stout and a bottle of coconut chocolate porter, and even a splash of leftover coffee. I used red, white and black beans and refried beans as well, to thicken the chili. For the lasagna I mixed cottage cheese and sour cream with lots of chopped fresh cilantro; that and shredded pepper jack cheese were alternating layers. Ernest thought of using the cheese like spackle to hold the pasta together. I did dishes as the lasagna baked, enjoying that task almost as much as chopping onions. I had declared this my time, and was enjoying all of it. Doing dishes is relaxing! Cameron says, “Think magic. Think delight. Think fun. Do not think duty.” Even when I am more pressured I will remember this lesson from my date; enjoy the task at hand for what it has to offer.
I was so wrapped up in the process that the product came almost as a surprise. I have stores of home-made lasagna and chili put by in the freezer! Had I set that task for myself, telling myself I should cook ahead, it would have felt more like a mundane chore. As it was I enjoyed the gift of time I had given myself, and the fun and relaxed approach that resulted in a pretty tasty chili and lasagna. And I’ve bought myself more time in the future because I have food prepared for later when I might be busy.
Not having enough time is a common complaint. It is hard to make time for all there is to do, especially for yourself; it may feel selfish or self-indulgent to take time just for you. Do it. It can be stolen moments, but let them be your moments, claim them as yours. For it is this acknowledgment and nurturing of your inner artist, this intent, that opens you up to replenishment and inspiration. Love what you do, do what you love, and take care of your self. Make a date!
Sautee: onions, meat, peppers
Add: chocolate stout, porter
cumin, cayenne, chili powder (lots)
tomates; diced, whole, whatever
beans (any, including refried)
Lasagna layers: lasagna
thicken some chili with more refried beans
mix together sour cream, cottage cheese and lots of cilantro
shredded cheese; pepper jack, cheddar
In a large pitcher combine a bottle of light beer, like Corona, a bottle of Mike’s Hard cherry lemonade, and a bottle of a fruity light beer or shandy. Or at least three bottles of something like that. Combine those three bottles with a half a can or so of frozen limeade concentrate and a half pint or so of tequila. Stir, add ice if you have it, and enjoy.