Purging (no, not THAT kind of purging)

Sometimes a girl just needs to purge. To send stuff packing. Create space and start fresh.

Purging, at least for me, isn’t usually planned. It comes from an overwhelming desire to clean, toss and reorder after coming off a particularly stressful period (or sometimes right smack dab in the middle of one). A good purge can involve things like cleaning out a file cabinet, clearing your Internet browsing history, or having a garage sale and taking what doesn’t sell to Goodwill. It just feels good. The space you created is physically visible, yet it’s also like you’ve opened up space in your head.

I had no particular plans yesterday. I met a stressful deadline last Tuesday and so I’m in that place where I’m lost for a few days. Never sure what to do with myself as I try to acclimate to my surroundings. I walked to the farmer’s market, hauled produce home on my back like a pack mule, and then rather than stare at the computer all day, I took out my four homemade cookbooks and purged.

As I wrote back in February, I own a lot of cookbooks. Most are in a big box ‘o books in the basement. Before I store them, I tag the recipes I make the most and make copies at Staples. Then I put them in the corresponding homemade recipe binders I created.

These three-ring gems save me from recipe hell. You know the place: that abyss of clipped snippets of recipes from magazines, soup cans, applesauce jars, flour bags, the underside of Cool-Whip or yogurt containers, and the sides of rice, pasta and cereal boxes? All those recipes you say you want to try just pile up in the junk drawer until you practically go insane trying to find “that one recipe” ten times a week. You can also go insane promising yourself you’ll try all the recipes you save and never do. And so I purged.

I probably tossed 100 recipes. Recipes that I forget why I found them appealing (they sounded good at the time, I suppose) and recipes I tried and thought, “Well, maybe if I change this or that…” knowing full well I’d forget about them like the garbage. It took four hours, but my cookbooks are now lean, mean fightin’ machines – ready to give me the perfect recipe when I need it.

The best part was that I discovered some old favorites, like the WW roasted potatoes recipe. Mix Dijon mustard with some olive oil, oregano, rosemary, pepper and salt. Stick some wedged potatoes in a plastic bag. Add the mixture and shake. Put on a cookie sheet sprayed with Pam and roast for awhile. I forgot how much I loved this recipe. I forgot because it was lost among the minutia and forgettable recipes I didn’t need anymore.

Purging is what energized me to cook this weekend. I roasted the roma tomatoes I bought after my bike ride this morning and they’re now in a sauce on the stove (for the recipe, see “Chillaxin’ With Some Old Recipes”). After attending my neighbor’s piano recital (which was spot on and gave me goose bumps: see “Even Blythe Danner Makes Mistakes Sometimes”), I threw together my veggie chili with butternut squash, zucchini, carrots, red peppers, fresh tomatoes and mushrooms. It involved a lot of chopping, but my iPod kept me company. My husband watched the Steelers’ game, but was serenaded by my rendition of David Cook songs.

It might sound silly, but I feel rejuvenated. In control. I cut through the mass of unappealing recipes, leaving in my books the ones that mean the most. Do you ever go through your “favorite” websites that you’ve stored on your internet browser and think, “Why was that site important?” It’s kind of like that. Sometimes you have to clear things out so you can breathe again and see what’s really important.

I have to go check the sauce and chili. That’s all that’s on my agenda tonight. That and eating the chili. And maybe checking Facebook. I feel back to earth. Don’t know how long this post-purge feeling will last, but I’m grateful for the time I have with it now.

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