Dinner to the rescue. In addition to white sauce, there are artichokes in this as well. Artichokes are one of the best things on the planet. (The wine doesn't hurt either.)

Dinner to the rescue. There are artichokes in this as well. Artichokes are one of the best things on the planet. (The wine doesn’t hurt either.)

I was in a completely rubbish mood today. The kind where you’re so bluerghhhhhh you can’t even make a very simple decision about what to do next.

On top of the other myriad causes of said mood, I was feeling a bit crap about bowing out of my original plans to go walking up some hills tomorrow. The weather is meant to be unpleasant and near freezing, and I don’t really have the right gear for those conditions. Plus my walking shoes (not even boots) don’t fit properly. And after what my feet felt like wearing them on a flat, 6 hour walk last year, I knew nearly 8 hours of walking in cold, wet conditions on mountains was probably not going to make for the most pleasant way to spend a Sunday. So I’m annoyed that I’m not more prepared in the kit department, because I’m missing out on hanging out with some cool people AND it would be good for me to experience some challenging weather conditions right now. It’s not like winter in Siberia is gonna be a picnic.

(This is how I look at a lot of things now: what is the thing in this situation that’s going to make this trip I’m taking better? It’s not so much that everything is about the trip, because it’s not. But MAKING things about the trip is a good way to keep me from that whole wimping out thing I was doing before. It’s also a good way to remind me why I’m saving money and being healthier and all that.)

Anyway, I’m happy to sit in a bad mood for a bit and let it do its thing, but after a while you need to get yourself out. And I was at the point where the only things I knew were A: I needed to get AWAY from screens and technology of ALL KINDS, and B: I needed to make something. Because every time I feel like utter shit and nothing else is working to get me out of it, the answer is: make something – you’ll feel better. This can refer to anything, but usually it means food. And even when I’m in such a strop with myself that I don’t even believe THAT’S going to work, I know that I have to just trust the proof of past experience and get to it. Because it always works. I wouldn’t be writing this post if it didn’t.

This time I made a fancy-ass pasta bake because I felt the need to pull out the big guns: Béchamel sauce.

Let me explain.

There is NO WAY to make a roux, and subsequently, a Béchamel, without feeling like a fucking wizard.

The day I nailed Béchamel without looking at a recipe was one of those times I truly understood how art and science can be the same thing. Perfecting the alchemy of the roux leads you to big, bad, brilliant things. It is impossible to feel bad about yourself, for AT LEAST 5 full minutes, once you are standing over a pot of Béchamel made by your own fair hand. Because watching it change and come together is fascinating. Because it is one of the ways a person who doesn’t do religion can explain how you can see something like god in science. Because the possibilities presented by a basic white sauce are endless. It makes everything better. And it is so simple you can barely believe it. Butter. Flour. Milk. Heat. Magic.

Most of us feel weird about proclaiming things we’re good at. I’m no different. Outside of being disgustingly over-organised, food is pretty much the only thing I am perfectly happy to say I am awesome at. To the point where it often carries me through the moments I don’t believe I’m good at anything at all.

This is the mightiest of universally useful and transferable skills. This, along with a few other food-based basics, is the band-aid for life’s troubles that lives in my brain. This, along with sauteing onions in fat, roasting a chicken to perfection, making a cake, and emulsifying the fuck out of a homemade salad dressing is something that I can bring on the road and use anywhere when I feel a bit shit.

Béchamel will not solve the world’s problems. It won’t even solve my own (that would be slightly ridiculous) – it often reminds me how to start though.