I go through dramatic phases with food. Sometimes I lovingly labor over meals and savor the cultural experience of breaking bread like I’m someone’s Italian mother. Other times I prefer my food in smoothie form, so it’s merely functional and all I ask is that it keep me from starvation.

Lately, food has been more foe than friend, as I have been knee-deep in a cursed kitchen phase. Over the past month or so, everything I touched in the kitchen turned to crap on a plate. I burned everything and used sugar instead of salt. I made a giant mess and at the end of it all we ordered take-out.

My husband says that I am “daring in the kitchen” but he usually means it as a good thing. The phrase has taken on more of a “fire hazard” kind of meaning recently, but whatever the reason for my culinary crisis, it seems to have passed and I am glad.

And the timing is perfect, because I’m getting some cool fall veggies, thanks to my Community Supported Agriculture box, I get challenged with things like this alien fellow.

He is a romanesco, a kind of Italian broccoli that tastes a lot like cauliflower. Saute it with a little oil and garlic - delish.

My bad kitchen karma reminded me of the satisfaction in keeping it simple. I like simple food. Good, real food tastes great with only a little help.

Also, I’m kind of lazy, so cooking something that has 75 ingredients, takes 2 hours and requires me to make a watermelon relish accompaniment is only going to happen once a year. Gimme a baked sweet potato and put a little salt on it. I’m good to go.

Cooking used to really overwhelm me. I thought it was some kind of wizardry that was inherently complicated. But like so much else in my life, the meals and moments that I really remember are the simple ones. The ones that were honest and true and without a lot of fuss or drama.

I cook with whole foods, fresh fruit and veg, as locally and seasonally as possible. I try to be playful and try things and not take it too seriously. And that, I find, fuels my body, mind and soul in a way that just feels right.

I’m a lifelong vegetarian (well, allegedly, prior to the age of three I was carnivorous) but lately we’ve been leaning vegan. Here are a list of my favorite vegan-friendly websites, in case you are looking for a little inspiration:

What are you cooking these days?

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