December 6, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Crumbling resolutions

By |2022-02-02T21:43:15+01:00January 24th, 2022|"Suzanne's Taste"|
Recipes, recipes, recipes... but where are the resolutions?

hen I was younger, and perhaps dumber — or simply full of the expectations of youth— I made New Year’s resolutions with glee, imagining how I would pare away at thoughts that sabotaged my attempts at having a sunny nature, eliminate habits that were hang-ups, abolish assumptions that could only lead to disappointment.

Did I succeed? Are you kidding? The reality for me is that New Year’s resolutions are actually great fun to think up and then abandon with whoops and hollers as I realize that I do not have to (and sometimes just cannot) follow them.

Yet I still spend all this time and energy thinking of ways to fix my flaws, be kinder to neighborhood dogs who leave calling cards in the driveway every morning, be more regular about keeping in touch with distant friends, pick up random glass shards as I walk in our hills, visit an elderly house-bound friend whenever possible, and other such things.

However, as the year moves on my good intentions inevitably weaken.

Even so, I have made some inroads: the off-the-leash-in-the-morning doggy and I are friends now, and we’ve come to an understanding.

Glass shards have been sparse as fewer people have been out walking in this cold weather. As for my 94 year old neighbor: she has been stepping out quite a bit, leaning on the arm of a pretty cute strong guy who strives to keep up with her pace.

Making things better in the kitchen comes more naturally to me than, say, yoga head stands, or giving up booze for Lent.

“Vat a voman,” a little old German man said to my husband in an elevator as Zsa Zsa Gabor stepped off at her floor. Vat a voman, indeed, to muddle through this pandemic with vim and vigor and still remain upright. Often better than I am after two years of semi-isolation.

Resolutions (read changes) are easier to make and follow in the kitchen. I am used to resolving to make a dish better, to experiment, to tweak my own recipes to make them memorable.

I resolved to make my rustic soups into other dishes, strained and silky, refined and seductive. Well, it was fun while it lasted, but give me something to bite on in a minestrone or fish soup and I’m as happy as a clam sauce.

Making things better in the kitchen comes more naturally to me than, say, yoga head stands, or giving up booze for Lent.

I never follow recipes even while loving to read them for inspiration. I measure by eye, hand, taste, and smell and there’s not much I can improve upon in that area after…er…so many years of cooking. I suppose I could resolve to be more open-minded about using green peppers (haha) or feeling personally offended when my garlic sprouts babies. Those little green sprouts are way too potent for most dishes.

I have resolved to treat my eggplant with respect. No pre-salting since that vegetable has been bred for years without the need to purge. And am thrilled to never again have to chop my chutney fruits, one by one. I’ll throw them all into the food processor, along with the onion, apple, mango, whatever I’m using, and pulse them quickly into their chutney-making dice, toss the whole shebang into an olive-oiled pot and relax while the sweet simmer takes place.

Maybe with my spare time I can pick up my Christmas-present paint brushes and put them to canvas, or try to balance myself on one foot a bit longer than 30 seconds without tipping over.

So many exciting things one can do with the gift of time (by actually following resolutions)!

Perhaps I should tackle the refrigerator shelves and drawers and actually find out just what’s in there. Maybe when it’s spring, or next Christmas, or Epiphany next year. Who says resolutions have to be made on the first day of January?

With all of these good intentions, however, I still find that resolutions, alas, require one major ingredient I may not have: resolve.

About the Author:

Suzanne Dunaway, a longtime major magazine writer and artist, is the author and illustrator of "Rome, At Home, The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen" (Broadway Books) and "No Need To Knead, Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes" (Hyperion). She taught cooking for 15 years privately and at cooking schools in Los Angeles, and now maintains a personal website and a blog. She divides her time between southern France and Italy.