Cooking for me is about serving a purpose, doing something for another person that makes them happy. When I cook for myself, it’s simple food with simple ingredients. A little Basil, maybe some lemon juice added to my eggs, possibly I have taken the time to do something a little more complicated simply because I don’t feel like sitting down to a silent table. I guess we could say there is love in the things I try to make, and without that I don’t really cook that much.
The summer after my senior year in high school I worked for a lovely Chinese man who ran an American Bistro in Narragansett, Rhode Island. It was just the two of us in the kitchen, him cooking, me being his slave. I learned to de-bone a chicken in a minute, peeled shrimp by the metric ton, and probably made more nests of pasta than any 100 people ate on a given weekend. He feed me as part of the deal, mostly seafood because I’m not a red meat eater. [and don’t get me started on pork, a summer in Europe when I was 16 left me not touching the stuff since!]
Some recipes you just can’t pair down, no one makes 2 cookies. A single slice of pie, sure you can adapt things but it’s never the same. I’ll sit in the kitchen for the entirety of a Saturday morning learning to make ciabatta rolls so that you can have that perfect picnic sandwich when we go to that concert tonight. My ex liked a meal so much that I spent a week trying to learn how to make it. For me cooking isn’t about a particular ingredient, or object, it’s about the effort I put forward trying to put that smile on someone’s face.
Living in someone else’s home, even one where they let me have full run of the place puts me in that place of wanting to do something. There are too many times when I’m just so tired that even the simple act of microwaving a potato sounds like an arduous task. I tried to make them something for dinner last weekend and failed miserably. Not because the food was bad, but I wanted to share the meal with them. Not have to crawl onto the couch, exhausted.
We get some prompt in this lovely forum from time to time talking about cooking, doing things for others, something that makes me circle back to this topic. My kitchen is an extension of the love I feel for the people in my life. Since the end of my relationship, I haven’t cooked anything for anyone. The table might as well be covered in boxes since plates aren’t necessary. Another reason for having left my own home! I actually miss making ten loaves of zucchini bread and sending some to my former father-in-law. I know he sometimes hid them in his office at the house, not wanting to share with the wife. Much like his brother sending fruit cake that I used to hunt the house for each Christmas. [I may not have much nice to say about mom, but I do miss him]
I have a chance to teach a young lady some of the tricks my relatives taught me over the years. Her family has been very generous in allowing me to experience that part of life, trying to help me deal with all of the changes in my own. The smiles I see when I talk to her balance out the tears forming in my own eyes. Teaching my daughter to cook was going to be my task, her mother avoided the kitchen as if Jack the Ripper hid in the pantry. Hopefully Susie realizes that this is more than being able to take care of herself, but that she will be able to show another that she cares about them in ways that words sometimes can’t express.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ingredients.”