• One Minnesota Writer


On Tuesday, I read a fellow writer’s blog post about Groundhog Day, shaking up our own shadows and changing repetitive behaviors. We’re not going to get different results any other way. I realized that was exactly the sort of malaise I was battling when I started working on the draft of this post on Monday. I named my general feeling cabin fever, which I don’t usually have to combat.

But we all know this winter is different. My own lack of motivation makes me pace around like a trapped big cat in a cage, stuck in a loop, not seeing what else could be done. What to do, what to do, what to do. Nothing in front of me interests me.

This is a stupid problem to admit to when I’m here, safe at home, and yet this is what these early 2021 days of isolation and caution are at first glance: boring and lackluster. Sitting in front of my computer has lost its attraction. In fact, screens of all sorts are uninteresting. I’m aching to do something with my hands, move my body, feel like my muscles are getting used. Fingers flying over a keyboard isn’t enough. Strolling to the kitchen isn’t enough. Walking around the neighborhood for the 352nd time isn’t enough. Another Zoom or Google Meet event isn’t enough.

And then I broke my food processor. Well, part of it.

I had this ancient Cuisinart that my friend Zannah gave to me when she got a new one years ago; I believe it was from the 1970s, well before I learned to cook. And it was still working, more or less, as of a few weeks ago. There were a few dings, the work bowl was dingy, the work bowl cover had a small bubble where the plastic was a little melted, and one of the discs lost its plastic label but was still hanging together. Sometimes the motor sounded strained. Last week, I knocked one of the slicing discs off the shelf in the kitchen while fishing around for something else. When it hit the counter, three small screws flew in different directions and the disc came apart from its stem. I found all the screws before the dog mistook them for food morsels, and noticed every one of them was rusted and ready to crumble. I took that as a sign.

Time for a new food processor. Here was something different to do! First, I researched online to see what the reviews said since I’d never actually bought one. Breville and Cuisinart brands both ranked high for reliability and ease of use, but the Breville was far more expensive than the Cuisinart. Much as I would love the coolest, most expensive version, I got another Cuisinart.

The new one is a 13-cup model with a smaller work bowl nested inside the bigger one, a spiralizer, a dicer, and the usual shredding and slicing discs, regular blade, dough blade. It was sleeker in every way than my old one, and not quite as back-breaking-ly heavy. I read the entire manual when I got home, highlighting the parts I knew I would refer to over and over. Such a nerdy thing, I know, but it was the first time I’d had a food processor manual; Zannah’s Cuisinart had parted ways with its manual years before it came into my kitchen. I learned to use it by trial and error and tips from Zannah.

The poor old machine met an inglorious end at the bottom of our trash bin. It seemed like there should have been some sort of ceremony. Oh well.

Have I used the new one yet? Once. I’ve taken the whole thing apart, washed every piece, put it back together, practiced adjusting the slicing disk. I’ve sat at our dining room table, cookbooks in front of me, scouring for recipes that will give the new Cuisinart a good workout. I’ve stocked up on produce: cauliflower to rice, zucchini to spiralize, potatoes to slice into lovely uniform rounds. There’s a pastry recipe for tarts that I want to try. On Monday night, we decided to make a go-to recipe that barely tested the machine: crustless quiche, with Swiss cheese, bacon, and cauliflower. The new Cuisinart shredded cheese just right, but that’s not much of a test.

All of a sudden, there’s plenty to do. There’s something new to learn, food to prepare, recipes to try. I’m using my hands, moving around, using all my senses.

Clearly, a great place to beat cabin fever is in the kitchen, the heart of the cabin. I can’t wait until there are more people inside that warm heart, especially hungry ones.

P.S. If you’re interested in the friend’s blog that clicked for me this week, here it is:

Carolyn Martin – Poet: Let’s Celebrate February 2.

image courtesy of Pixabay.com

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