“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.”
–Craig Claiborne, ‘Craig Claiborne’s Kitchen Primer’
Note: edit organizing owner Sarah Gant is exploring 14 ways love can be expressed during the first two weeks of February. This is the 8h installment.
I am a baby boomer, child of a stay-at-home mother, and I attended Kent Place School, a private girls school in Northern New Jersey from 7th through 12th grade. When I emerged from my enlightened and very academic private education in the mid eighties, I was unable to prepare even a simple meal for myself, and I proclaimed this proudly to anyone who would listen. I had fulfilled my purpose as an educated young woman who had not attended school to become “finished” in the finishing school way; I would not be subjugated to the needs of a potential suitor and husband; and in no uncertain terms would I allow myself to be doomed to the life my mother had lived, planning, shopping for, cooking and then rehashing, in the form of leftovers, meals prepared from scratch (sometimes with a can of soup… shhhh). Oh no, Kent Place did not offer Home Economics, at college, everyone ate in the dining halls for every meal, and my mother did not invite her daughters to cook with her: in fact, as Julia Child proclaimed, “She was ALONE in the kitchen” with her glass of chablis.
All that worked pretty well for me, even through 15 years of marriage where I mostly cooked pasta, salads, and fried things on the stove top. I could host a dinner party but it was overwhelming and more often than not I’d encourage a potluck affair or concentrate on making a fabulous dessert. Brunch was my best arena, and I can do wonderful things with eggs and sugar. But after my divorce, and when I started dating John, I started to reevaluate my stance that cooking = chore. You see, John, a bachelor, prepares a nutritious, colorful and delicious meal for himself every night of the week. We’d chat on the phone, and I’d say, “What’s for dinner tonight?” and he’d describe the tagine of lamb, baby potatoes, and new peas that he had stewing in the oven, or he’d say the swordfish was just in and so he was grilling that, an ear of corn, and slicing some fresh tomatoes he got at the farmer’s market.
So, five years in, I am evolving. John has taught me to properly use a knife, to select cuts of meat that are easy to grill and can be used the second or third time in a salad or other leftover redux. I am learning that when we cook together, it is a really pleasant way to relax into the evening, and my daughter quickly joined in by preparing a smoothie for our dessert, or asking if she could make an appetizer like cheese straws. Food is love. Food is love. I get it now.
Would it surprise you to know that when I didn’t cook, I had dozens of cookbooks, and was the kind of person to grab a cooking magazine every third or fourth trip to the supermarket? Now that I cook, I have weeded out my collection to exactly 20, plus my binder with recipes neatly categorized. I use five or six of the cookbooks all the time, and the others I keep for sentimental reasons or for special-occasion cooking.
Expression of Love: Prepare a nutritious, colorful and delicious meal for your loved ones. Go through the cookbooks and get rid of the dead wood. If there is a single recipe you like, rip it out and recycle or donate the book. Collect the loose recipes, trim them and glue them onto pages, then collect them in a binder with sheet protectors so that you can only have out that single recipe and it won’t get schmutzy. Set the table, use the good linens and dinnerware, and let your family know that you love them and want them to enjoy the meal. Ask them to observe their best manners, just this once, and ask them to thank you when it is done. I know, sounds odd, but ask them to thank you, and tell them you’ll thank them for cleaning up, and it needs to be a habit that you all do this. Cook, eat, clean up, be grateful for all of it.
Is food love in your house? Do you want to try this? Comment below and share your point of view!