My cocoon

There are many things in all of our lives that are out of our control. My need to nest on the weekends to be ready for the week ahead exists because it is something I can control in a world with so much uncertainty that I cannot control. As you can probably imagine, I am a fairly self-reflective human. I often analyze why I gravitate toward certain activities when the stress gets layered on thick like straw on a bedding pack.
I also have a love for words, hence the reason writing and reading are two of my passions. I was reading Jacqueline Winspear’s book, “The Care and Management of Lies,” last summer and came across a sentence that so eloquently describes my very attitude toward cooking I had to write it down. One of the main characters, Kezia, is at home running their English farm in her husband’s absence. He has been sent off to fight in World War I. Kezia writes to him of delectable meals she is making for him. Her letters make her husband and his fellow soldiers forget about the war on their doorstep and only think of her meals. These meals are largely imaginary, because the war effort has left her lacking for ingredients. Amidst all the stress of her world, Kezia finds herself at peace in the kitchen. Winspear writes, “Instead she sought solace in the kitchen, which cocooned her, brought her into its rhythm.”
The kitchen. It truly does possess a rhythm all of its own. I love this quote. I recognize in myself that this is exactly what I do when I am frazzled with life. It is important to me I keep the people around me happily fed, and it forces me to get up and putter about even when the more compelling choice would be sinking into the couch with a remote in my hand. It is as if my body knows what I am doing and takes over, similar to how milking my hospital cows allows my brain to go into rote mode. I focus on the casserole, the pie, the dessert – whatever it may be – and let the stress of my current life situation fade away to a dull noise in the background. I am in control in the kitchen. I feel safe there. I let the motion of stirring, the very physical act of kneading bread, the whir of the mixer, the open and shut of the oven door, the smells that are carried outside through the open windows, all of these things take over. Then, I block out the things I can’t control. The hair loss, the achy body, the fatigue, the sheer weight of the word cancer.
Much like the cows don’t care about cancer, neither does the kitchen. While that may seem like I am anthropomorphizing these things, at the very basic level I mean this to say that the cows don’t give me a strange look when I show up sporting my new bandana. I don’t have to worry that the mixer is acting up because it feels the stress of the situation. In the barn, in the kitchen, I am still me. Occasionally not at my finest, but usually at my most comfortable, tucked in my cocoon.
On that note, I leave you with a family favorite recipe that screams June Dairy Month meal. Every child devours it, so it has passed formal inspection around here.
Also, for any of you who saved the homemade bread recipe I shared last year, I have a couple of fun ways for you to tweak it. As you divide the dough into thirds, roll out one section to become cinnamon rolls and one section to transform into tasty garlic rolls. For the cinnamon rolls, spread the dough with butter and sprinkle generously with brown sugar and cinnamon. For the garlic rolls, spread with butter, sprinkle with a bit of garlic powder, and toss on chopped wild onions or chives and a bit of mozzarella cheese. Roll both up like a jelly roll and cut into 1-inch or so rolls. Place in a greased 9-by-13 baking pan, cover and let rise until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. These are a mouth-watering treat at the farm and never last long.

Cheesy beef hotdish
2 pounds ground beef
15 ounces tomato sauce
16 ounces spaghetti
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Brown the burger, drain, add the sauce and set aside. Boil spaghetti, drain. Add the cream cheese, sour cream and cottage cheese to warm noodles. Stir until combined. Grease a 9-by-13 pan. Place spaghetti mixture in pan first, then the meat and sauce mixture on the top. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of the meat. Place on a cookie sheet to prevent spills because the pan will be quite full. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for at least 45 minutes.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira (14), Dane (12), Henry (7) and Cora (4), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.


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