Intro

I resisted the urge to “style” my mess and actually my kitchen has seen much worse. Also, since I’m being very honest, I originally had two small images of my messy kitchen in this post but realized that that needed to be big. Breathe.

A friend encouraged me to take a picture of my messy kitchen for you all to see. We’re no longer friends. (That’s not true).

After the initial terror of the idea I started to see her point then finally came around to agree with her completely. There are a number of reasons why she was encouraging me to do this.

First of all she admitted to me her thoughts the first time she saw my kitchen.

“This is where she cooks everything?”

My kitchen has no pantry to store the assortment of flours and sugars I would like to keep. There isn’t an expansive island to knead doughs and gingerly work cold butter into flour. There is very little counter space and half of the space there is is taken up with coffee equipment. Priorities.

This isn’t me complaining. This is just how it is. Of course there are things I would like to have in a kitchen that I don’t have currently but this space works and I am grateful for it.

So my friend thought you should all see the space as well. More specifically the space in the state of disarray in which it is often found. Dishes from lunch that happened hours ago still sitting. Items that should be tucked away into the overcrowded cupboards clutter the countertop and take up much of the coveted space needed for mixing, rolling and sanity. She wanted you all to see a bit more of my reality. She wants you to know that my kitchen is small, it’s often a mess and also that the cake from my last post took three attempts one of which included me dribbling chocolate across my house because of a cake pan that had acquired holes which I hadn’t noticed until after I poured the liquid into the pan.

 

It’s not just her. I want you to know this too. I don’t put myself and my work onto this space to be elevated in any sort of way. My fear is that you would use any part of my life as you’ve imagined as an excuse to not create the recipes on the site or to create in general.

“She’s got time.” “She’s got space.” “She’s got three perfectly behaved children who clean for her, massage her feet and actually are the ones making the recipes on the site.”

I may have more time than some, I might also have less. I may have more space than some or I may have less. And well, the last one was just put there so I could laugh while I imagined that scene.

The truth is my day is always a series of choices. Right now I’m choosing not to clean the kitchen so that I can spend some time with you in this space. Also, I’m choosing to not do laundry when really now would be a perfect time because except for this fly buzzing around me, currently the house is quiet.

I’ve been asked numerous times, “how do you do it all?” I sort of love and hate that question. I love it for a brief moment because sometimes I can be grossly prideful. So the fact that I have somehow painted a picture of myself as having figured it all out seems pretty great. And then I think, that’s horrible. That poor young mother or person in the cubicle working long days thinks that I eat chocolate and frolic in the garden with my well-behaved children all day long.

I have been that young mother mindlessly peering into other people’s “lives”. With unrealistic brush strokes I painted a picture of their lives as some sort of idyllic reality that I wanted rather than the messy life that I was living. Logically I know that everyone’s reality includes some messes and really we don’t want to see that all the time but every once in awhile I think it’s refreshing to see the mess and humbling to share it.

That dim photo of items out of place – a chaotic mess of life and our reality is also there to fill in for the words that I can’t find yet. This space has been silent for longer than I normally allow but I haven’t been able to put myself here as my mind has been in the same state as my kitchen. Dark, cluttered and despondent.

The beauty of darkness is that it is often there where life’s most valuable lessons tend to hide. Because of the lack of light the lessons are hard to spot, but when you start to see them, that’s when joy becomes part of the suffering.

In the midst of this season of darkness I’m reminded of the power in vulnerability. A humbling lesson as I realized again and again that I can not battle this alone but what has come from that vulnerability is greater love, deeper respect and a refining of who I am.

When listening to Ruth Reichl speak last weekend at a conference I attended and spoke at, she was urging us to return to the home table and to invite people to join you there. Sharing a meal in a restaurant is a completely different experience than opening up your home to others. “When you invite someone into your home you become vulnerable.” She said. “You are saying this is who I am.”
She fears we’ve lost that kind of intimacy and we are not the better for it.

As with any sort of vulnerability, when I think to invite others into my space the wave of excuses hit with great force. “My home is too small. They’ll be uncomfortable. The kids will be too loud. I don’t have matching dishes. They’ll see the stains, the mess, the clutter.

They’ll know me in a way I’m not sure I’m ready to be known.”

It’s an exhausting work trying to hide oneself. A work that I don’t care to excel in. For the sake of greater love and for the hope of guiding someone else in their darkness I become vulnerable. It’s an act of faith. It’s removing the band-aid while the wound is still fresh trusting that the air will help in the process of healing.

 

Green lentils with arugula and asparagus
inspired from Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi
serves 4

The past several Sundays have found me at the Farmer’s Market with the sun beaming on my face and my smile radiating back. The offerings are still a bit slim but each week I faithfully return I am rewarded with a bit more abundance. Arugula and asparagus are always a must, beyond that it’s what else I can fit in my hands while still be able to manage the three littles. This recipe highlights the season so beautifully. It’s quick and easy and a perfect option to serve when opening up your home and sharing a meal.

1 cup green lentils
4 cups arugula
½ cup parsley
½ cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 Tb red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 bunch asparagus
salt and pepper
pecorino (or parmesan)
lemon wedges

Wash the lentils then simmer in a saucepan covered with plenty of water. Simmer until tender but not mushy – about 15 minutes. Drain any remaining water after cooking.

While the lentils cook put half the arugula, the parsley, oil, garlic, vinegar, lemon zest and a hearty pinch of salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed or a squeeze of lemon.

Add this pesto to the warm lentils then set aside. Taste again and add salt if needed, most likely it will need it.

Roast or grill the asparagus until charred in places and cooked through. Cut into 1-2” inch pieces. (I cut off the woody part of the asparagus then toss with olive oil, salt and pepper then place on a hot grill pan for about 2-3 minutes per side).

Toss the asparagus and remaining arugula with the lentils. Top with plenty of shaved pecorino and serve with lemon wedges.

You can serve this dish warm or room temperature. A perfect, healthy spring dinner, I’d say.

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Green lentils with arugula and asparagus


inspired from Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi
serves 4

The past several Sundays have found me at the Farmer’s Market with the sun beaming on my face and my smile radiating back. The offerings are still a bit slim but each week I faithfully return I am rewarded with a bit more abundance. Arugula and asparagus are always a must, beyond that it’s what else I can fit in my hands while still be able to manage the three littles. This recipe highlights the season so beautifully. It’s quick and easy and a perfect option to serve when opening up your home and sharing a meal.

1 cup green lentils
4 cups arugula
½ cup parsley
½ cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 Tb red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 bunch asparagus
salt and pepper
pecorino (or parmesan)
lemon wedges

Wash the lentils then simmer in a saucepan covered with plenty of water. Simmer until tender but not mushy – about 15 minutes. Drain any remaining water after cooking.

While the lentils cook put half the arugula, the parsley, oil, garlic, vinegar, lemon zest and a hearty pinch of salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed or a squeeze of lemon.

Add this pesto to the warm lentils then set aside. Taste again and add salt if needed, most likely it will need it.

Roast or grill the asparagus until charred in places and cooked through. Cut into 1-2” inch pieces. (I cut off the woody part of the asparagus then toss with olive oil, salt and pepper then place on a hot grill pan for about 2-3 minutes per side).

Toss the asparagus and remaining arugula with the lentils. Top with plenty of shaved pecorino and serve with lemon wedges.

You can serve this dish warm or room temperature. A perfect, healthy spring dinner, I’d say.

91 Responses to “my mess”

  1. Stephanie S

    I am genuinely jealous of the space you have in your kitchen. My mess seems so much worse because how I have to squish into my tiny kitchen. And like you, sometimes I have to chose what gets done…this week, it was not keeping the kitchen as neat as I should. That being said, I will now be adding lentils to all my salads.

    Reply
  2. Brenda

    Most of the big and beautiful kitchens I’ve seen aren’t used. It’s all for show. The women want the nice things but never lift a pan or stir a pot. Sad.

    Reply
  3. Kathleen H

    What a wonderful post, thank you. I work full-time at a bank, I never have enough time at home to make it look like I want it to. We invited a couple to dinner last night (a Friday) and I was completely dreading it because I imagined their house to be bigger, nicer, cleaner, etc.. It turned out to be a very enjoyable evening (they stayed 3 1/2 hours); but the sentiment of being vulnerable by inviting others to see how you live really struck a chord with me. I am certain I have more clutter than most, but it is a collection of things my husband has made (rolling pins – 9 of them, pepper grinders – 5 of them, cutting boards – 3, and so on) cookbooks that I could not live without, magazines, piles of clipped recipes, food processor too big for a cabinet, kitchen aid mixer, also too big for a cabinet……all collected lovingly and with purpose. Love me, love my mess. Keep up the wonderful posts, and your BEAUTIFUL photography, you are an inspiration!

    Reply
  4. Tiffany

    Love this and should send you a picture of my kitchen. I was sitting with the kids, looking at the afternoon sun hit my mound of dishes and mess and had a simultaneous moment of love and hate. I love that my kitchen is used. I love that I create good things to eat. I hate the lack of counter space, tiny sink, ever dirty floor. And yes I love to have others over, but hate for them to see the disarray that is sometimes my life. Thanks for the honesty. Happy Mother’s Day

    Reply
  5. Lisa Eich.

    Ashley! The guilt and frustration of not having a clean kitchen often stains to joy of cooking for me. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have cried over my dirty kitchen and the fact that I just cant ever get it clean! Thanks for the reminder that it’s OK!

    Reply
  6. haylea

    So, I’m not the only one! I just took a picture of my kitchen on Sunday, and it is baddddd. But, like you I made the choice to ignore it and spend time with friends. Priorities :)

    Reply
  7. Lena

    I appreciate you keepin’ it real!
    When friends/neighbors come over and my home is in it’s true normal state, I’ve just stopped apologizing for the state it is in. I’m not going to apologoze for prioritizing other things over a mopped floor and dusted shelves. I just tell them this is just my reality and they are welcome in my home. It was a little embarrassing at first but now I realize it has helped to break down those formal barriers and perceptions of false perfection that are never genuine. It has made me more accessible and honest about who I really am – a normal woman.

    Reply
  8. Jenine

    This post was really beautiful. I love to cook for my husband and 3 kids. This winter I went through chemotherapy and what surprised me was that in the midst of dealing with everything together my desire to cook just grew. I found that while waiting to feel better I planned all kinds of comfort food for my kids especially. I baked more probably than I ever had – and that is normally quite a bit! I of course am on nothing but nutrition now, so will celebrate not with chocolate but with your lovely lentil salad recipe. And continue to connect with my family and friends through feeding them. A messy kitchen becomes so small when you’re counting the important things in life. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  9. Maddy Pidel

    I love this post. My food blog is based around the notion that we should celebrate reality, not just the “cleaned up” pretty picture at the end; but it’s tough sometimes…your words captured it beautiful. You are a big part of the reason why I am food blogging now, after following you for a few years, with joy. Thankyou thankyou.

    Reply
  10. Mallory

    I just found your blog today, and after reading this post I know I’ll be sticking around to read more. It’s so great to get to see the reality behind the beautiful dishes that food bloggers present to the world, and seeing that you cook just like I do – with a mess on all sides – is very refreshing. Thanks!

    Reply
  11. CgyMomof2

    I’m so glad I found your blog. I only have 2 children, and I work full time. I appreciate your honesty! My house often looks like a bomb went off. I would love to entertain more, but as you stated I’m afraid my house, my food won’t stack up. I know that’s not the case and that my friends don’t care, but why do I spend hours cleaning and prepping when its good friends coming over who like me for me and don’t care if my house is spotless. Be proud of what you have created! :)

    Reply
  12. Amanda | Wholesome Family Kitchen

    I’ve stumbled upon your blog from time to time and enjoyed your writing, drooled over the food, and envied your photography… but this post sealed the deal for me! I’m subscribing to your blog now because I don’t want to miss another post! :) I struggle with the ideas you mentioned here every. single day. The messes. The hiding of said messes. The vulnerability. The putting off of having people over because things aren’t “perfect.” The choices: do the laundry, try to write a blog post, or ignore it all and get down on the floor to play with the kids. Sigh. It IS exhausting, & it’s nice to know I’m not the only one struggling with it. So thanks for sharing! (And thanks for the recipe too– it looks yummy. I love lentils!)

    Reply
  13. Martha

    Thank you so much for this post. I feel like I can breathe a little more. I understand the vulnerability feeling that you and Ruth speak of. That is one of the reasons I don’t invite people more. Someone said that we bond with each other over our failures, not our successes. I feel like we have bonded more :-)

    Reply
  14. Sarah T

    Thank you. Your kitchen looks great compared to the “mess” in ours; it’s oddly comforting to see this room in it’s regular, lived-in state and not staged like a magazine spread. The hubby and I are constantly bumping into each other in our small space, but that doesn’t keep us from creating delicious meals and wonderful memories. :)

    Reply
  15. Carrie Schultheiss

    I love this. I also live this reality of a small crowded kitchen which feels like it is in a constant state of disarray. I also know I feed my family well. I appreciate your humble honesty. It certainly helps the rest of us in the same boat wishing for more space to do what we love, but also knowing that we would still be cooking and baking for loved ones even if our kitchens were closets. Thank you!

    Reply
  16. shuhan

    loved this post. my kitchen is tiny, and when I say tiny, I really mean tiny. literally 2 steps down and 1 step across. and it’s not the most organsied of kitchens too, but to me it is a place for me to create, to cook the food i love, and to create wonderful smells and memories. and that’s what’s important. have been a long-time follower of your blog, but never really commented, this time round, thought I’d finally drop you a line! great work, and love your photos, and your honest sincere food and writing. x

    Reply
  17. nicola lynde

    Thanks for sharing. I feel you on the mess/space thing. I think it’s so easy to imagine everyone else’s perfect kitchen, and it’s nice to see what the reality is, for all of us.

    Reply
  18. Jacquie

    “The truth is my day is always a series of choices.”
    Absolutely needed to read this today. As others have said, this is by far my favorite post. Your beauty and power is in your honesty.

    Reply
  19. Hillary

    Hey Ashley,
    What a very beautiful delicious healthy food up there! :O
    If you don’t mind, could you post this Green Lentils with Arugula and Asparagus photos on a food photography website called http://www.foodporn.net to make others live in a healthier way? :)
    Thank you.

    Reply
  20. angela@spinachtiger

    First of all, I love your pictures and recipes. But I love your mess too. Just yesterday, I was thinking that I should photography my kitchen mess, and pantry mess and then reorganize and do a post. I cook like a tornado and don’t always get to the breakfast dishes at breakfast. It was a relief to see your realness. As far as inviting friends over for food, I agree with Ruth, it’s a lot different than meeting in a restaurant. And, we should all do more of it.

    Reply
  21. posjfp fgsngl

    Thanks for ur sharing information.Ur article added my knowladge.Ur article give me benefit.So i have much information in my brain.I will visit again to ur blog if you have updated ur blog article…

    Reply
  22. Susan

    I discovered your blog via thefauxmartha. This posting of “my mess” hit home with me. I just recently came to the world of food bloggers and love it. I have tried countless recipes from many different sites. After preparing many of the dishes, I’m often amazed at what a mess my kitchen is and imagine the kitchen of the person where I got the recipe to be all pristine and spotless as their pictures that enticed me to make a recipe. Thanks for the dose of reality! I needed it…..now I have to go and clean up my kitchen while putting in a load of laundry!

    Reply

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