I like to cook. I really do. I'm a big fan of fire, and heat, and sautéing things in olive oil. I like roasting, love baking, adore composing salads with many layers of vegetable doodads. I can poach a fish and flip a crepe and scrape the little brown bits off the bottom of a skillet. But sometimes, I'd rather read a book, or watch TV, or go places. Sometimes I even like to do nothing, something I do -- can I say this? -- remarkably well. Basically, sometimes, I like not cooking so much I actually giggle at the joy it brings me.
These not-cooking times vary in frequency and duration, but more often than not they occur on weekends. Weekend lunches, in particular, are one of my favorite times to practice the art of not cooking. I've become something of an expert at it. I may even go on tour, just not cooking from city to city, town to town, peddling my skills on street corners and country lanes. I'll not cook in lots of places. Under water, on bridges, in museums.
Of course, there is a caveat: my distinct brand of not cooking still involves pretty good food. I don't want anyone on my watch to starve. So I cut things up, nicely, and plop them in piles. I think about color, texture, flavor. I create an artist's palette, so something as seemingly dull as a cucumber actually looks fun, and sassy!, once it's placed next to a scoop of pomegranate seeds, or the sections of an unpithed clementine.
And then I call the masses. "Hey, masses!" I trill. "Eat something."
And they do. They nibble and nabble. They pick and they dip. They pair dried apricots with pita triangles and cucumbers with salami and peaches with brie. And at the end of the meal, or the unmeal, they walk their plates over to the sink. And I've got no pans to scrub, no splatters to wipe. I've just got a knife and a cutting board to give a quick wash, and the freedom to return to my day of doing everything or nothing.
Yes, I suppose, you could go to the drive-thru or get a hot dog from 7-Eleven, but without being too dogmatic, don't. Just expand your definition of the meal. Break free from the shackles of conformity. Unsandwich the sandwich, de-compose the salad, and unstew the stew. After you present the platter, if people wonder where their meal is, slap a white hat on their heads and tell them they're in charge. "Eat it however you like," you'll say. "You're the chef. You're the artist."
And then pull back a chair, sit quietly, and watch them paint.
Before you know it, Monday will come. You'll pick up your pots, unearth your pans, and embrace the fine art of cooking once again.