August 31, 2006

The Essential Intangibles

I fell in love with food when I learned more about love.

That’s not to say I was in love, I was just learning quickly what love was and more specifically, what love wasn’t.

Which, if you’re counting, means I came to cooking late – because if I know anything about myself, it’s this: I’m a late bloomer, in cooking and love.

I remember seeing the film Like Water for Chocolate – many years ago. One line has come to my mind on an almost daily basis since. I’m paraphrasing, but it drives how I cook: Cook with love, it will show up in the food.

It’s no secret that food is so often equated with love – in healthy and unhealthy ways. In the truest sense both nourish us; both affect all our senses. To share those senses with others, stops the world from turning so fast – connects us and pauses us.

Mum was happy to let me cook if I wanted to. She worked full time, when most Mums didn’t. I remember how tired she was – bus into downtown Montreal at 7am, bus out that got her home at 6pm.

But on weekends, after we’d been shopping, she’d let me shake the chicken in the shake ‘n bake plastic bag, or make the spaghetti sauce, or blend the milk into the tomato soup, or bake a cake (from a box), and ice it (from a can) or my favourite – get the mixer out and whip up a batch of whip ‘n chill - Strawberry rocked, for anyone who remembers.

(By the way it’s food like that that occasionally makes me feel eating organic is a waste of time for anyone that grew up in the age of plastics. I figure eating processed foods “just like the astronauts”, altered our body chemistry for good, but not for the better…however even if it’s too late, organic still tastes better)…

Anyway, while we were having tea and biscuits at the kitchen table, Mum would try to teach me how to jitterbug, hand in hand, jiggling and jumping like fools.

In case you get the wrong idea, we also ate lots and lots of fruit and veggies, because my Mum instilled a love of them – I still haven’t met a vegetable I don’t like.

I’ve had an incredible ride so far (along with some big bumps) – fulfilling my dreams when I was young to travel and get paid for it. I managed to work my way into work that took me round the world and home again.

It opened my eyes to incredible beauty and incredible suffering – which, along with experience, built the framework for what love means to me.

Now whenever I try something – I’m notorious for trying out recipes I’ve never made on my unsuspecting friends - I hear that voice in my head – cook with love…And I'm not kidding, not once…not even once, has that injunction failed the meal.

"I do not think that good food can come from a bad kitchen," wrote MFK Fisher in Serve it Forth. I'm a believer.

Of her first kitchen in France (which measured 3x5 feet) the venerable food writer said, “All the noises flowed in and out of the window of the tiny kitchen, gay and sombre and mysterious and always real, and I may be too sentimental in thinking that they helped me cook some good dishes – but I doubt it.”

It got me thinking about the intangibles of cooking. How I like to cook. I like to have time. I love cooking in the afternoon as the sun nuzzles its way briefly between our houses through the bay window, I love having music playing (I’m a jazz fan, Steve is not), I love having the door open, the neighbours checking in, the birds singing, and I still dance on occasion – it all adds up to putting joy in the pot.

And it makes me think about food and what it means. And that’s what I want. That’s what this journey is about for me. I care about how we feed ourselves, and hopefully, feed how we care for each other.

I'd love to know your favourite music whilst you cook - or your favourite setting - your favourite intangibles, so to speak...Image of MFK Fisher cooking in her kitchen at Bareacres.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Lovely post.

One of my favorite times to cook is during a day-long rain or snow. Whenever weather of this sort is predicted I make sure to lay in supplies for things like soup making. I love the feeling of coziness that cooking on a rainy or snowy day gives me.