The rise of smoothie bowls and avocado toast has me thinking about cooking. I like both of those things, but this isn’t cooking. There is little alchemy or craft required to throw things in a blender and put on toppings. A properly roasted chicken is revelatory, sensual even.
I grew up with a Mom who found refuge in the kitchen. We weren’t invited in, but the meals that came out were still some of the best I have had anywhere. She could be a difficult and critical person, but damn, that food.
My daughter cooked with me. At six she made the vinaigrette for the family’s dinner salad. Sometimes I would make sashimi and she and I would eat it with chopsticks right from the cutting board, chatting all the while. I was lucky with her. Her sweet and affable nature always left room for my more demanding one. She was my little helper, and I miss her now that she is grown and gone.
After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives. -Oscar Wilde
I started teaching myself how to cook in my tiny, Chicago apartment at age nineteen. I bought a cookbook called Verdura
and set about making dishes. Over the years I have made countless meals. Sometimes people remember my food and talk to me about it. I once bought a Meyer lemon tree and tended it just so I could pluck the lemons and make a tart. Still the best lemon tart I have ever had.
I’ve made ducks, geese, nine-course meals, bread in an open fire, fresh pastas every day for a month. I once cooked a seafood stew that made everyone at the table stop talking on first bite. Raising children turned cooking into work causing me to abandon it for a while after my divorce. A girl can only live on jarred hummus for so long, and now it’s back to cooking.
Other interests captivated me from time to time, causing my ex-husband to call me flaky. My spin was that I had a curious mind, but I admit there were a lot of pursuits over the years. I would fall in love with each one and then one day, mysteriously, be completely over it. At one point I was obsessed with gardening. I had journals with detailed plans and could recite the latin names of every planting. I would wake up in the morning and start thinking about my garden before getting out of bed.
The hobbies have been more like short love affairs; obsessive, immersive, and fleeting. Cooking is my long-term partner, always quietly waiting for my return. An enduring love.
Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want. -Gael Greene
The joys of domesticity get short shrift in our culture, everyone wants an adventure. Cooking a meal for a beloved person with music in the background is on par with swimming in a beautiful ocean for pleasure-inducing activities.
I’m not a woman whom others would immediately peg as a homemaker, but I love to do it. Sharing a homemade meal (or walk, another favorite) fosters a primal and unique connection.