It snuck in early, this love I have for food.  It began as a comforting pass time, a tradition of foods learned at the side of a woman who was like a mother to me.  My best friends mother taught me the traditions of southern cooking.  She showed me how to make sure oil was hot enough to fry in.  A thermometer was never necessary for this task you merely have to watch the foam when you pinch a small bit of flour into the hot oil.  She taught me how to make saw mill gravy, chicken fried steak, and fried chicken.  We made endless pots of mashed potatoes and countless batches of chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches.  Sundays would find us with chopping board and can opener as the sun tea jar was filled with glorious Salsa, a staple for the week to come.

In those dark days after the unit of five became instead a unit of two and one of three those treasured days of cooking at her side faded.  Instead I cooked, alone, in my father’s kitchen.  His gleaming white ceramic tile floor and stark black appliances did not hold the comfort of cooking with her, but the food still called to me.  I experimented with baking, pulling from the oven batches of braided cinnamon bread, homemade pretzels, and more dozens of cookies than I could ever recall.  My bible-study group became my testing ground, and the speed with which the food disappeared became my measurement of success.

Those days held late night escapades with friends making crepes at three in the morning and a long afternoon with the cowgirl preparing for my father’s birthday party.  There was my first holiday meal prepared alone, and the first slight alterations to my mother’s dressing I dared to try.  There were abysmal failures and charred burning messes.  There were warm sugary treats that disappeared faster than I could make them.  There was a race car birthday cake and the pooh bear cake.

In those days, I loved food. I loved slipping into the quiet place of knife and cutting board, spice rack and garden, pulling from each the food we lived on.  It was a deeply satisfying time in my life.  When the world was crumbling and I was no longer sure of my place in it I returned to what I knew.  Sun tea jars filled with salsa, mashed potatoes and gravy next to fried chicken, and pasta dishes laden with fat but oh so divine on the tongue.  My red and white checked cook book is spattered with the evidence of that era in my life.  The dog eared pages between those covers speak of the many hours I spent pouring over words wondering how the simple ingredients translated from words on the page to tastes in the mouth.

I had forgotten I loved the art of cooking.  I had forgotten the deep satisfaction of simmering liquids and popping oils.  I had forgotten the way I love to meld texture and flavor waiting for it to become “just so”.  Until my Sweet One came along I rarely cooked.  The reasons no longer matter, what does is the fact that my knives are slowly dulling on the chopping block and my fingers are once again tainted with the slight aroma of garlic and onion.  My mind is whirling with recipe ideas and my kitchen table is covered with recipes printed from blogs of men and women who would not mind that my fingers smell of garlic.  Theirs do too.  My kitchen has been filled with the rich aromas of pomegranate cranberry beef, southwestern pot roast, and quinoa stuffed peppers.  I bought a mini food processor so that hummus and pesto could be prepared.   My blog reader is filled with cooking blogs, and my list of books on hold at the library all revolve around food.

Slowly, my kitchen is becoming a place of content solitude again. It’s becoming a place of healing as I learn to cook new foods, different foods, foods that are not poison to my body.  I no longer prepare the fat and gluten laden fare of my childhood.  These days it’s fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.  It’s quinoa, chicken, and eggs.  It’s new and yet it’s the same peace I’ve always known when the counters are covered in ingredients, the mixer is whirling and the percussive sound of knife against cutting board can be heard.

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