We spend inordinate amounts of time in our kitchen. Since I’m the only one who really cooks, what’s everyone else doing? Well, first there’s Josie, frequently staring in the fridge, giving me a half-second eyebrow before swigging milk from the bottle. Greg shuffles envelopes, crunches salty almonds, or pours coffee while I circle the island. Cleo licks a path across the floor.
Lately I’ve tried to change the scenery, to write and do other non-cooking tasks outside the kitchen. Why? Certainly it cuts down snacking. Working elsewhere puts baguettes and Nutella out of reach, and keeps me from drifting toward the what’s-for-dinner zone. But other rooms must be dull, because I am still glued here, with a messy bun that redefines messy bun. I am peering in the oven or upright at the stove, with one ear to the phone, two hands in a bowl and a lightly breaded keyboard.
Greg certainly benefits from my base. The other day I was about to throw steak over arugula for lunch – but decided to save the steak for dinner. Instead I grabbed a few linen-shaded eggs, a fresh gift from a brave chicken-raising neighbor, and they took a star turn on the salad – poached – with parmesan, pepper, and mustard vinaigrette.
The next night we had roast chicken, and I’d planned a little spinach-ricotta souffle on the side. When I found more arugula than spinach, it became arugula-ricotta souffle, vividly green and equally good. You can mess around in the kitchen; you can mix and match and literally think on your feet. You can teach tired old tools brand new tricks.
Like the cheese shaver, which loves butter. Who knew?
If you like to play with your food, do as you please: add that vanilla, take out onions, toss the recipe, make your fine-rib shirt an apron. It is, after all, your kitchen. Late afternoon in my kitchen, light barges through panes above the sink, rays strong enough to blind the cook, but I like it.
I like the gleaming faucet. I like stirring in bright shadows. I don’t mind squinting or pushing back hair or tripping on Cleo, in dreams on the floor. I am always in the kitchen, a room where I taste honey, correct sauce, know the answers. Anyone can triumph there, or fight, or get engaged, or take a call that stops you cold; in the kitchen, you may fill the teapot and go on. A reporter once asked my favorite teacher, a chef, do you eat your mistakes? He looked stunned. “No,” he smiled, “we fix them.”