Thursday, May 28, 2009


Fire and a stick. From that humble beginning, all the utensils and pots and pans and whisks and knives and spoons have sprung, amassing exponentially over the years and centuries to great storage-houses filled with needfuls and shiny temptations and esoteric oddities. I love to cook, and have since I was very young, turning out those meals and parties and picnics with a seemingly effortless hand, though myself cognizant of the toil it takes.

There’s a lot of work involved in cooking, though most of it is pleasureable work---the slicing of crisp bright vegetables, the cutting of lush, juicy fruits, the grinding and mixing of faraway-born spices with the dust-drift rising in a fragrant halo, the afternoon-long braise of a cut of meat, with the scent of onion and herbs and rich meaty goodness filling the house. I LIKE working in the kitchen, even the piles of pots and pans and all the dishes and utensils and glasses which seem to magically spring up in the making of a meal.

I like to take my time with little kitchen chores, setting out the cutting mats, getting out the knives, washing and drying the squash and the cabbage and the tiny lettuce, shaking the chicken in its brown bag of flour and seasonings, lifting a lid and turning the wings and drumsticks so the golden crispness will appear magically in the sizzling oil. I’m fond of working to the sound of a voice reading, for my shelves are filled with books-on-tape---CD’s mostly, with great leanings to Agatha Christie and James Lee Burke and Stuart Woods---I think my best efforts are achieved and the time passed unheedingly to the never-failing precisement of Poirot.

I click the “PLAY” and put on my big yellow gloves, running the water hot-as-hot from the faucet. It cascades into the big yellow plastic bowl, churning the Apple Dawn into a frothy meringue, as I brush and clean each dish and pan and tray in the cleansing depths. Then into the dishwasher---with much of Poirot’s own fussy method---the tall glasses here, the plates turned this way, the platters in this new DW with room to stand on their own in its deeper yawn. The placing and the arrangement fulfils much as circling beautiful canapes upon a doilied tray, just for the beauty of them.

And the sharp knives, contrary to experts’ caution, in the basket at the back, tips down, and any sharpness lost to the sluicing I can replace with my trusty stone.

I wonder what the standards were before germs were invented---did they rinse things, and dry them and put them back before the King? Did the bread-trencher custom last for centuries, and were the people healthier for the disposable tableware?

And how on EARTH did the chuckwagon cooks get those beans soaked enough to set up camp a couple of hours before the trail-gang got there, and get the beans tender enough to eat for supper? I know they were dry beans---pintos or northerns, probably, and it had to be nearly impossible to travel those bumpy miles with a pot of liquid sloshing around. It's not like they could stick them in a Ziploc with some water and snug them in a saddlebag. Or the three or four cowboys making camp in the dry, unforgiving lands, opening those canned beans and scraping their supper out of that tin plate---did they just sand-scrub the plate and settle onto their saddle-pillow?

So much of my life has been spent in the kitchen, feeding family, friends, great hordes and gaggles of guests---thousands not my own. Probably nowhere else save a familiar hug is as comfortable to me as the triangle. And that’s a hug of its own, as the familiar comfort of the kitchen greets me and holds me and lets me know I’m home.


Tonja said...

Speaking of is the menu from the party...

Chicken Salad (from Honey Baked Ham store)
Pasta/Shrimp Salad
Frozen Strawberry Salad
Whipped Fruit Salad
Fresh Fruit Tray
Raspberry Salsa with Pretzels
Gingerbread Dip with Ginger Snap Cookies
Artichoke Pesto with Wheat Crackers
Mexican Corn Dip with Corn Chips
Strawberry Cake (bakery)
Key Lime Cake (bakery)
Sweet Tea
Soft Drinks

racheld said...

I'll have to borrow an idiom from the young folks and say, "SHUT UPPPPP!"

Oh, my, what a lovely spread!! Thanks for posting it---I'm gonna go look again.