New Year's resolution-making is beneficial to the human spirit. A practice apparently begun millennia ago by the ancient Babylonians, resolutions push us forward in our lives, unleashing the mindfulness and positive transformation that spring from assessing the gap between where we are and where we want to be.
The Romans took this idea seriously, naming the first month of the year Ianuaris, after Janus, the god of gates, doors and beginnings. Janus had two faces, to look both forward and backward, the better for New Year's resolution making.
In our times, resolution-making has morphed into an industry all its own, pouring millions of dollars into the marketplace, generating untold tax dollars and keeping entire sectors of the economy afloat. Just think of the spike in sales of exercise equipment, health club memberships, self-help books, weight-loss programs, smoking cessation products and church attendance that follows the living-it-up consumption of the holidays.
As for me, this year, when it comes to making resolutions, I am taking a different approach. Instead of joining that health club, giving more to charity, striving to be kinder to friends and family or doing 50 sit-ups and push-ups every morning (I managed to keep this up an entire two weeks last year — that has to count for something), I've identified one simple goal for 2006: Do more, theorize less.
My view of myself as a pretty serious cook was shattered recently when my parents came for an extended visit. I watched my mother conjure complicated suppers magically out of the air including myriad entrées, side dishes, even homemade gravy, and on weeknights, too, without breaking a sweat or making a colossal mess in the kitchen.
(I thought that chaos was a natural part of the process.)
The fundamental difference, I realized, is that while I think about cooking, she actually cooks — pouncing on something she wants to make, rustling up ingredients, popping things in and out the oven and cleaning up before anyone even notices.
Case in point: I've had a geeky, arcane cookbook called World Sourdoughs from Antiquity for at least 10 years. I've thumbed through it countless times longingly thinking, wouldn't it be great to make this or that. Ah, someday ...
One morning, after my mother dished up a batch of extraordinarily light and tasty waffles, I asked her where she got the recipe. "Oh, that funny antiquities cookbook," she said. Just a little something whipped up from King Tut's ancient sourdough starter she had been brewing for three days in a jar somewhere. Do more, theorize less.
I guess what this really means is setting priorities and actually finding time to do some of those things that are riding on that ever-growing list in the back of my head (baking bread, making Mexican hot chocolate, rolling out homemade ravioli ...).
It's about recognizing the pure enjoyment that food and cooking bring to me as a way of connecting deeply with family and friends, and finding a way to bring more of this into my everyday life. Thanks, Mom.
CONTACT CRAIG BIDA: cbida(at)citybeat.com