Monday, March 3, 2014

Shall We Dance?


Justin and I signed up for dance lessons. It has been a dream of mine for years. We both love to dance, but he didn't know how to lead, and I didn't know how to teach him to lead. Our dance package includes six private lessons, six group lessons, and three "parties" (and the parties start at 7:00 pm -- that's our type of party these days). In addition to learning how to dance, this turns out to be fifteen guaranteed dates. Whee! Saturday morning dates are fine by me. We get dressed up, just a little. He wears cologne. I put on makeup. Our dance lesson is preceded or followed by a trip to Atwater's for coffee and pastries.We love to sit at the bar and watch the baristas flurrying around. The waiters bustle orders out to diners at tables. We share chocolate croissants, triple ginger muffins, and mini loaf cakes. We love the pour over coffee, and I love the pretty mugs they come in. It is fun to have toddler-free time together.

Have you ever partner-danced before? The most important rule is: he leads, she follows. It doesn't work to have both lead, or both follow, or to switch off who leads and who follows. One would crash into the other time and again (alas, this was us at many weddings...until now). At lessons, it is so relaxing for me. I get to zone out and become like putty. All I can do is follow Justin's lead. He, on the other hand, is doing all the learning and thinking. It is fun to watch his eyes narrow with concentration and his tongue stick sideways. He has gotten better with not looking at his shoes, but now he will often look at me without actually seeing me. His mind is on the steps and the beat.

It got me to thinking about cooking. Have you ever cooked with someone before? There are different roles that get played out in a kitchen. Someone has to lead, and someone has to follow. Feedback may be offered to the leader, but it doesn't change the reality that that person is the leader. When you are in your own kitchen, you are the leader unless expressly stated otherwise. You know the ins and outs of where the tools are, where the ingredients are stored, which pans are best to use, and the little quirks of your oven.

In this way, cooking is like a dance. Sometimes it is a dance you do by yourself. You twirl around, shake some salt, chop some onions. Other times you have a helper. Your helper is looking for specific instructions for what to do. Wishy-washy instructions are not appreciated. A strong lead makes a confident follower. If Justin wants to spin me on the dance floor, he needs to give me a strong nudge to communicate that I'm going to spin. Otherwise, I spin off-beat or bump into him. Same with cooking with a helper. Instead of saying, "Cut up an onion," you say, "Thinly slice the onion into half moons," or "Chop the onion into small dice."

It is difficult for me to cook with someone I don't know very well. Chit chat is common while cooking together, but if I do not feel comfortable interrupting the person to give instructions (in my kitchen) or to ask a question about the recipe (in their kitchen) then it is somewhat anxiety-producing. It is easy to cook with Justin. I am the boss. He is the sous chef, so to speak. Then we switch on the dance floor. He gets to do all the thinking, and I get to zone out and just follow.

I have been craving good salads lately. It must be my way of dreaming of warmer weather. I still gladly eat hot soup and crusty bread, but a good salad with a thoughtful dressing is my idea of "more, please!" They are nice to make with someone else because one person can make the vinaigrette and another can prepare the vegetables and add-ins. Here are some salad ideas you can make with someone else as you "dance" in the kitchen:

- Spinach salad with cranberries, walnuts, walnut oil, balsamic, and goat cheese (no link for this, just wing it)
- Kale salad, a la Smitten Kitchen
- Iceberg stack with blue cheese and bacon, similar to this one
- Summer Salad (swap out-of-season veggies for in-season veggies)
- Sweet Potato Salad for a non-green alternative
- Dijon Dressing
- Guide to Spectacular Salads

Have a great week, everyone! Spring is coming soon...

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