I love food. I say that but really what I mean is that I love to cook. I love to cook food. I know because I do not get the same enjoyment out of going to the local store and buying roasted beets and eating them as I do when I slow roast some golden beets for an hour and half and toss them with some lemon and balsamic and serve them with a little salad made from their own spicy green tops. Somehow, when I make dinner I go into a moving meditation of sorts. It used to happen to me when I would bake. And still to this day, when I really need to process something mentally, the only thing that frees me is baking…it’s so methodical and sweet and seemingly selfless.
I didn’t always love food. I used to view it as an enemy. I didn’t like a lot of things and I often found that I gagged over the texture of certain foods thereby needing to eliminate them from my diet and further limiting me in my early gastronomical ways. I used to proclaim to my friends that my greatest wish was a pill we could take to receive all of our nutrients instead of having to eat. Of course this was a long time ago and during my vegan days. As I look back, it’s really no wonder I gagged so often on my food, I mean how much tempeh and quinoa can one person eat? I slowly added things to my diet: cheese (a god send), dairy in general, fish, mushrooms,…meat. I’d be lying if I said I eat everything today. But, I do try everything, at least once. It is my new lease on life I’ve had for the past few years. It’s so much more liberating to say that I don’t eat lamb because I’ve tried it every way possible and unless it’s Frenched rib chops then I don’t seem to care for it. Or, I only eat pork or beef if I cook it myself or if I know the farm it came from. Or, chicken is still a definite no! It’s so weird and they’re so damn cute those chickens! It feels okay to say these things because now I have actually tried them. It’s better than not liking something because of your latest neurosis…ugh! Why do so many neurosis have to manifest themselves into these bothersome eating issues? But I tell you what, my greatest fear is exactly what I used to dream of…a pill to have to take to receive all my nutrients instead of eating food.
How did this culinary revolution come about for me? Well, I guess a lot of things happened at once. I realized how unhealthy I felt because although I was vegan, I wasn’t eating any vegetables really. I was so concerned about getting non-meat protein into me that I had forgotten about things like fat, oils, and vitamins from veggies! I actually would eat a bag of microwave popcorn with some spoonfuls of peanut butter for dinner. Then one day I was working at a new restaurant…and the chef put up family meal and I will never forget it. It was roasted arctic char and vegetables. Nothing fancy but there was no other option. And it was on a plate…with a lemon wheel just to make it look all pretty. And I ate it. Without missing a beat! Ate the whole damn thing like a recovering anorexic who just found some graham crackers in the trash, and thought no one was looking so she went for it! Oh! So! Hungry! Soon after that, the floodgates were open! I mean, it would take me another 7 years to eat meat but…a whole new world was open. A world where I didn’t have to commit to this monastic vegan lifestyle. And with the addition of dairy meant I could bake and with the addition of fish meant I could go to people’s houses for dinner or actually have the balls to open a cookbook because at least some of the recipes would apply to me.
And so just that happened. I started reading cookbooks and food writing with great passion. I “got it” just a little bit more when I looked at the dining section in the paper…and my memories served me well. I remembered having seen Julia Child and Dinah Shore when I was young somewhere. I remembered my grandmother cooking. I remembered that my mother made her own baby food for my brother. And more and more I found that I was happiest reading about food and inspired by reading about food. I would lay on a towel in the park in the sun reading about food until I couldn’t take it any more and would pack my things up and head to the grocery store just to go home and cook.
My biggest inspirations were, of course, Julia Child and MFK Fisher. I mean my god! What joy they had for food. Maybe it was more than that. Maybe it was that they were these lively sexual women who also ate…and I wanted that…for myself. Reading that when Julia Child landed in France she said the air reeked of Shallots. I would giggle. Reading that MFK Fisher would peel a tangerine and put the segments on the radiator for a few minutes to dry them slightly before eating them because the effect was almost like candy…I died…I swear…it’s the best thing I’ve ever read. Or, Amanda Hesser writing that she made a pact with herself that even when dining alone to, at least, always use a real cloth napkin…no matter what! These are things that I think about on a daily basis.
Today is Tuesday. Tuesdays lately have been a solo day for me. A day where Schmoo is at work and I have off. It sounds lonely. And truth be told, it is a few of the minutes here and there but all in all I need this time to myself. I spend the greater portion of my day, my week, my life caring for others. I manage a restaurant caring for about 50 employees, balancing the needs of my staff and the hundreds of guests who choose to dine with us everyday…and they expect to be cared for too. I care for my boyfriend. I care for our apartment or at least I try. I care for my friends in my spare time (not much to speak of there) and I care for my cats one of which is nearing death on a daily basis but aren’t we all? I oscillate between the need to hang out with my friends I never see, my boyfriend I can’t get enough of, and spending quiet time with myself to write or read. Tuesday is my day to do it all. Last Tuesday I hung out with Linda and that was great. Tuesday is also my meatless day and so I made us a veggie dinner of Dal with aduki beans, coconut, apples, lime-butter, ginger and scallions. We drank Champagne (duc de romet) and sat outside for the first night of the spring! My favorite moment was when I was grating fresh turmeric into the dal…Linda toasted me and said “thank you for loving food”!
Thank you Linda!
This Tuesday…I am by myself. And it is my meatless Tuesday. I was tempted for a split second to walk down to Cobblestone Foods and order some beets and other roasted veggies to bring home to save time but I put my foot down. I knew that I would feel better if I made myself something. So, armed with my desires from the latest issue of Saveur, I went to the grocery store. I made the Fennel baked with milk. I also had the dandelion green salad with anchovies!!! (we’re not counting that as meat right? I mean I pulverized the hell out of them and made them into a bloody paste and whisked them into olive oil for a dressing). And I poured myself some Pouilly Fume (a perfect accomplice to my veggies) by Andre et Edmond Figeat “Les chaumiennes” 2008.
And I set a little spot up for myself with a place mat, a fork, a knife, a glass of wine, and...a real cloth napkin.
And I took my time eating in solitude. Thinking of the flavors. Thinking about the rest of my night ahead of me.
Thinking that I can’t wait to make Chocolate Puddle Cookies for dessert.