Last night there were no time constraints and nobody had to go anywhere; there was no need to put dinner on the table at a specific time. I could finish whenever I finished, so I gathered all my ingredients from the refrigerator and laid them out, working from one item to another, cleaning up as I went. I arranged a taco making station full of empty bowls and set about filling each one while the rice cooked.
As I moved from peppers to tomatoes, to onions, to olives, to lettuce, chopping all the components for tacos took on a meditative quality. Each stroke of the knife was a separate and discrete action, requiring no thought beyond the next stroke, needing no justification and no reason behind it. I had offers of help from several family members, but I turned them all down. Other nights, when I am fighting to have dinner done before one of us has to rush off, I gladly put people to work, but they didn’t seem to mind my good-natured refusal this time. None of them were very interested in the proceedings beyond offering to do their share and were busy doing other things, so they continued on. So did I.
The taco fillings I had made earlier stayed warm on the stove, sending a spicy, savory aroma to fill the kitchen that I breathed in as I worked through the crisp vegetables. The sound of the chop on the board, the cool feel of the veggies in my hand, the repetition of each action, and the satisfaction of seeing each bowl fill up with beautiful colors and textures became mesmerizing. I was almost sorry when I finished shredding the last chunk of lettuce just as the timer rang, indicating the rice was done.
I set out the hot pans next to the cool bowls, and called the family to come and combine the bounty in any way they saw fit. The mix of crunchy and soft, cool and warm, creamy and spicy always satisfies us on many levels. I stood back, leaning against the doorjamb, and watched my children build their tacos, jousting for turns at the full bowls and then carrying their laden plates to the table.
I made my own and joined them. There is more than one way to bring peace to the household.