Image ripped off from Tangelo Studio. The piece is for sale.
I want this piece of art. In another life, I was that woman, bent back over the table. I lived in a big house. For six years, I made dinner.
You could look back and pick out the reasons why. In the kitchen, I could be alone. M. never wanted to hang out in there. I could do whatever I wanted to do, so I did almost everything in there. I canned cherries. I wrote about what I saw and what I didn't see.
I made things. I made something out of nothing. I cooked food because it was the only trick I had in my pocket to make him happy. I opened my stomach as if it had a hopper and ate food I didn't want because it was all we could do together. We both got fatter. I learned to ask him for help if I wanted him to go away. So I guess I had two tricks.
When I came here, to Virginia, I put all of that stuff away. Or, maybe I just got weird about it. I ate with John but we mostly ate out (in the beginning.) I sometimes cooked behind his back, waiting until he left on a work trip to attack and destroy the kitchen. In one of our few real misunderstandings, he called just after I'd made myself a steak under the broiler. He said something like, "So you like to cook but you just don't enjoy doing it for me?" Meaning, "I want to understand that there's something about doing it for another person that took the enjoyment away for you, right at that time in your (my) life." So soon after my divorce, I could only hear M. in that remark. I heard, "So...you like to cook but you just don't want to cook for ME?"
But if you know John, you know he meant it the other way. The, that's perfectly ok, baby, I am happy kinda way. Because he loves a fancy dinner just as much as he loves a bowl of cereal which is as much as he enjoys eating at Burger King. And if I'm in the kitchen he's in the kitchen because he loves ME and he's spent the day crawling around repairing a giant industrial machine that's so loud no one can really talk while they're at work. And I'm the one that has to remind myself to slow down and listen instead of running away to do something stupid - like put the laundry in the dryer - instead of listening to the person I love, who loves me, tell me what he saved up in his heart all day to talk to me about.
More often than not, when John's cooking he shooes me out of the the kitchen. For him, it's the surprise factor. He wants to plate it and show it to me in all it's majesty. Even though he's not a vegan he says that he enjoys the challenge of cooking vegetables. He said once, "I think anyone can just cook a good hunk of meat, but how many people can master the ins and outs of vegetables?" He steams vegetables and rice in the steamer or sweet potato "steaks" with mustard sauce. He whips up green smoothies with kale and fresh fruit for my breakfast, serving them with a side of oatmeal with mango and cinnamon on top. He stands over the sink and eats the rinds of the fruit telling me he ate for himself while he was making mine. Cinnamon toast. Vegan chocolate chip pancakes with fresh strawberries on top. I told him once I'd still love him if he didn't serve me breakfast in bed and once during a busy stretch he didn't. I still loved him, but I did miss that love on a plate.
I've been cooking with a mania ever since I found Veganomicon at my library a few weeks ago. Not in secret. This is vegan food I want to eat. I've made a velvety Carrot Bisque, Potato-Kale Enchiladas, Snobby Joes, Mushroom pate, Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies. My Instagram feed is ripe with the ideas.
I've cooked so well for so long that I know exactly how this all works. That I can switch the walnuts to pecans in the Mushroom pate recipe. That the Carrot Bisque will never be right without fresh ginger. But I learn things from this book, too. I learn that if you dip the tortillas in a pie plate filled with tomato sauce and then roll the filling inside them, the wetness of the tomato sauce will hold your enchiladas together like glue. Fucking genius. One week I play a game with myself - trying to use every vegetable I've bought and not waste a single cent of the $60 I spent at the store. The next week I spend $30 on artisan salts.
The unseasonably cold weather makes it easy, too, because the gas oven heats the house. The new fridge bumped to the other side of the kitchen makes the work space flow better than before. I still enjoy the wide open space of being home alone. When it happens I stay up and wake up later. Writing, exercising, working at odd hours. I start cooking in the middle of the afternoons and make enough to freeze and eat during the times when John is away. This week he's away for seven days straight.
I focus on that - trying to lay it all up for moments exactly like this one. I know the day is going to come - and soon - when I will be unable to force myself to drive to the store to get a box of cereal. And many times I won't know why that happens. At others, I will find out that this old house is just too cold and my body wants to hibernate. Or that I didn't have enough to eat the night before and my blood sugar is low. It can all be sorted with a microwaved bowl of homemade soup. When its ready, I eat one bowl of soup from the batch and freeze the rest in my individual serving containers. The next night, I make another soup. Or a casserole. Alone in my kitchen, but not lonely. Right as rain.