Coming To Terms With The Kitchen
I think I want to learn how to cook and I’m having a hard time with that. Why? Read the heck on.
New York is propelling us into fall without even a single needlepoint cushion to assuage the change and that sucks. But it’s not so much the fall that’s bad as it is what the season infers — that with it, comes winter.
Or as I like to call it, the lengthy, frost bite-inducing equivalent of a genital wart that tricks you into thinking it’s just about to depart after you’ve endured the pain necessary to evict it, which only offers morsels of false hope, as it continuously appears and reappears, unsolicited.
With winter, of course, comes plenty of time indoors and with that time comes a more urgent necessity to survive at the hand of home-cooked food. Of course, that’s not entirely true — living in New York means that at any given hour, on any given day, I can assure you that by dialing ten measly numbers, a fresh meal will find its way to my doorstep in 30 minutes or less.
Until about a week ago, I took great solace in the contents of my oven (which were takeout menus), but with a recent health kick now pervading my sense of that-which-is-consumable, my wanting to save money and the dubious sense that my home will never really feel like my home until food is being produced from it, it seems like high time to put that previously-deemed futile spatula to the pan and cook.
Here’s the thing of it. I never, ever wanted to do this. Actually, that’s not what I’m having a hard time with. I never wanted to want to do this and yet here I am, at my behest, veering closer to my stove. I’m no longer shunning the miscellaneous spices ambitiously placed in a kitchen cabinet just above said stove by my mother, and on the rare occasion I very discreetly google recipes like a denial-ridden renegade with a secret penchant for okra.
But I love food. And I really love creating things. I’ve even conjured a theory about my ability to mix prints to parallel my unconfirmed-but-likely ability to combine gastronomic seasonings. So why did it take so long to get here?
Like I do for most things, I am going to blame my mom.
Growing up in a single income home, I always hated that my mother would joke that she was “CEO of the kitchen.” It frustrated me that when we were out or shopping, she’d have to call my father for purchase approval had something costly piqued her interest. As best as I can recall, he never had to call her from work to confirm she’d be making dinner. I can’t remember a single time my dad didn’t come home to the greeting of a beautifully decorated, deliciously executed dinner table plus nourishment.
Don’t get me wrong though, my dad never overlooked or took for granted the sense of I-will-probably-never-have-to-wonder-what-to-eat-when-I-leave-work-again that my mom offered, and if you ask her when she feels most powerful, she’ll tell you it’s when she’s in the kitchen. It’s just never the life I wanted for myself. I wanted to know that if I yearned for an expensive jacket or stupid ceramic bowl, I could get it for myself without having to run it by anyone or thing but my own sense of fiscal morality.
Why I believed achieving such freedom could only come independent of learning to cook a meal seems to lay in my mom’s Gen. X, opt-out-elicited reluctance to do both. That and the fact that she once told me the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Though that may have been true in the case of my wide appetite-driven father, my partner-in-scant-activity has never seen me so much as boil an egg. In fact, he is elated when I remember to buy almond milk from Whole Foods. I’d be hard pressed to say he loves me any less than my dad does my mom.
I guess that somewhere along the way cooking, to me, became akin to assuming the role of housewife. Though I’ve always admired my mother (this only boomeranged a year and change post navigating waters she’d been swimming for 30 years — marriage), like Ruth Reichl, I didn’t really want to become her. But maybe in learning that I can have the marginally platitudinal version of “it all” without ever having donned an unironic apron is now eliciting this curiosity to give it a try.
Up first? Kale salad.
Okay, so maybe I won’t be cooking so much as I will be massaging and tossing but it’s a start on my quest to prove, if only for myself, that to be domestically-ad