Magical Thinking in a Scarcity Mindset

Updated: May 9


I’ve spent a lifetime in fabulous kitchens that are not mine. My own kitchen is more modest than the one of my dreams, but every time I walk into it, I feel a lightening of my bones that signals my spirit: things are good here.


I learned to cook watching my mother, whose discovery of MFK Fisher, Julia Child, and

Alice B. Toklias made its way into her soul and onto our plates in ‘70s San Francisco. Sure there were a lot of flaky gray lamb shanks in the process, but somewhere along the way she found her rhythm – and I have yet to find a salad on this planet that tastes as good as it could if it were laced with her vinaigrette.


I’m not much of a planner – in fact, spontaneity is my culinary lifeline. Yet in these days of living in a pressure cooker rather than using one, I’m having to muster a sense of wonder for my produce bin that’s uncharted territory in my pretty solid repertoire. Yesterday’s magic moment happened when I opened my CSA box and beheld two perfect green garlic bulbs, bright and fragrant, packing a punch of spring that was impossible to ignore. And what had felt like an obligation became an inspiration. Garlicky, lemony pasta ensued and the world felt a little brighter from the corner of my kitchen.


There are plenty of things I don’t do well, but instincts born at the hands of my mother and 20+ years of cooking dinner every night have given me the tools to power through the sticky moments of these strange days, harnessing magical thinking to carry me to higher ground.


Shelley Tatum Kieran is partner at MOCA+. She can also be found @thehandfeeds

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