Do you ever dream about food?
Because I dream about food, a lot.
Sometimes I dream that I am eating it, but, more often than not, I dream that I am making it. I am whisking or blanching, tempering eggs or shredding Brussels sprouts. It’s always something labor intensive, something important — some do-not-skip-this-step step.
For years I worked as a waitress and, towards the end of that stint, I worked in a very busy, very fast-paced restaurant in the middle of a casino. The shifts were long and hard and demanding, the spirit very much of a “every man for himself” sort of set up. To work in a restaurant like that at least a very small part of you has to be mean. No, perhaps not mean, but scrappy. You have to hold fast to yourself, work yourself to the ground, and then count your tips at the end of the night and go the hell home. You have to go the hell home and be a different person there.
But, for years, I struggled to go home and walk away from it. I’d go home and run around the house — all wound up by fluorescent lighting, recycled air, and too much unlimited free fountain soda. If I got to sleep at all, I would have dreams that I was there — still there — in my restaurant-grade no-slip shoes, my apron tied flush around my waist, my pocket full of scribbled-down shorthanded food orders. I dreamt I was man down, in the weeds, double-sat, never ever quite caught up. I dreamt of customers calling me names — customers screaming at me, devouring me with language. I dreamt I was late, was fired, was working my way through a triple shift. I dreamt about everything but the food. I never dreamt about the food.
The dreams were always working dreams, not unlike the work dreams that I have these days. In the same vein, there is little eating, but everything I dream that I am doing in some way supports that blessed task. I am dreaming of food again. After these dreams, I wake up and I rush into the kitchen, ready to arm myself with immersion blenders, vegetable peelers, very heavy cast iron pots that I nearly level myself with every single time I extract them from their home on top of the refrigerator.
I dream of work, and then I get to work. And I suppose this is how I know I’m doing something right. When I am cooking, I am myself. I am an agent in my life and every single part of that scenario makes me feel happy. When it’s time to not cook, there is no need to turn anything off. There is no need to be a different person. The transition is seamless, is ineffable. I am me, and then I am still me. And I am still cooking.
A couple of weeks ago, I dreamt we were in the kitchen making merguez sausage — grinding it, spicing it, and stuffing it into casings. I have never stuffed a proper sausage and, at the time of my dream had, in fact, never even tasted merguez. But we were making it. And in the morning I was still making it. I was still cooking.
Merguez-Inspired Scotch Eggs — Gluten-free, Paleo, and Whole30 compliant.
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 2 tablespoons harissa paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon hot Spanish paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet or broiler pan with foil (or a silpat) and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine by hand all ingredients except for the eggs. Divide the meat into 5 even portions. Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on your work surface. Roll the first portion of meat into a ball and then flatten it on top of the plastic wrap so that it is about 1/2″ thick. Put the first egg in the center of the meat and then pick up the whole thing, including the plastic wrap. Using the plastic wrap, mold the meat around the egg so that it is completely and evenly covered. Place the Scotch egg onto the prepared pan. Continue prepping the remaining Scotch eggs and then bake them for 35-40 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through.