The idle time while something cooks

My favorite moments when cooking a meal are the idle ones. After the meal prep, after the mixing and browning, after all the complicated stuff, when you’re given a moment to wait as things coalesce. It’s the point when your brain shuts off as you stir a pot, gently mix vegetables in a frying pan, or observe the small bubbles as a sauce lightly simmers. It’s a moment that occasionally happens in the middle of cooking a meal, but most often it’s at the end, as a timer ticks toward zero.

This is a similar moment to the pure brainlessness that athletes describe when you hit the perfect level of exertion—when you’re incapable of thinking anything more complex than the steps you need to stay alive in that moment. The writer Haruki Murakami and cartoonist The Oatmeal both describe this moment as the “void.”

I find that same void in cycling, especially when I can get off road, away from cars. Deep in the mountains, alone on a dirt fire road with a heart-exploding 15 percent grade, thoughtlessness takes hold. Gone are the worries and fears, sure, but also gone are the creative aspirations and joyful moments. It all blends together into a black hole of thought.

That feeling lasts a few seconds, maybe a few minutes when you’re lucky. It requires an aloneness that’s difficult to find, both literally and figuratively. But it’s a drip feed of emotional purity that draws me out on my bike day after day.

Cooking provides a snippet of that feeling. In the idle time it takes for a sauce to simmer, you can allow yourself to drift away, thinking nothing. You cannot do anything else. You cannot step away. You cannot tidy up or clean. Like a hit of sugar in the afternoon, this snippet is not enough to carry you through the week, but it’s enough to get you by a little longer.


Currently readingThe Stand by Stephen King

Currently watching: (null)

Recently watched: Kajillionaire (⭐️⭐️⭐️), Carrie (1976) (⭐️⭐️⭐️), Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️), Romancing the Stone (⭐️⭐️⭐️), Django Unchained (⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Currently listening: Miles Davis Pangaea

2 thoughts on “The idle time while something cooks

  1. Is “The void” analogous to “the zone” or does it imply a more physical state? Can you find the void in gaming or playing an instrument?

    1. They’re similar, but different, for me, anyway. Like, the void is full-blown emptiness, where you’ve just dumped out everything in your head. The zone, for me, is more when you’re locked into a singular focus. If that makes sense?

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