Years ago, when I was young and still sure of my own power over boring routines, I studied a map one weekend and found a new, faster route back home from the city where I'd recently moved. I described my clever navigations to my grandfather, boasting that I'd saved 37 minutes. "Thirty-seven," he mused. "And you just used up 15 telling me all about it. What will you do with the other 22?"
Time-saving, the modern credo that sends us zipping from microwave dinners to the fast lane, can blur the truth that life is a zero-sum equation. Every minute saved will get used up on something else, possibly an activity no more sublime than watching TV. Ever since my grandfather's rebuke, I've tried to bear in mind that taking time with the quotidian might make it satisfying enough to be the goal, rather than the obstacle. Cooking dinner, especially, is a pleasure to stretch out over the day's end when work is done and family members trail home. A quick recipe can turn slow because of the experiments we hazard. We make things from scratch for the fun of it. We grow a garden. We bake bread. We make cheese.
Okay, I know. You were with me right up to that last one. I'm not sure why, since it takes less time to make a pound of mozzarella than to bake a cobbler, but most people find cheesemaking a preposterous idea. If friends happen over just as I'm draining a freshly made Neufchâtel, they act like they've caught me at witchcraft.