November 09, 2007

lives and forks

I was having lunch with two new, and increasingly good friends of mine today. We were all devouring exquisite butter chicken, salad and raita - and lubricating it all with mango juice.

And we were inevitably talking about food - because that's how we're becoming friends...our work lives descend (I think I mean ascend) into discussions on how to cook curry, where to find any good Mexican food, what's the best way to stop onions from incinerating...

And we were talking about Alice Waters - because I had read the article in about her and was trying to quote some the things she said, which resonated with me - like the smell of onions and garlic - like home.

"When we're eating fast food, we're not just eating the food, we're eating a set of values that comes with the food. And it's telling us that food should be cheap. It's telling us that food should be the same no matter where we are on the planet. It's telling us that advertising confers value. That it's OK to eat 24 hours a day. That there are unlimited resources. It's telling us that the work of the people who grow or raise the food is unimportant -- in fact we don't even need to know. And all of those values are informing what's happening in the world around us."

Later on she said instead of thinking of a meal as something to get over as quickly as possible..."get out of that mind-set and tell yourself cooking is a meditation. I like to do it. It's relaxing for me to come home -- it truly is! -- and wash the salad. I love to see the salad in the sink. To spin the salad. I like to dry it. I like to pound to make a vinaigrette with my mortar and pestle. I enjoy grinding coffee and putting it in the filter and warming up the milk. It's part of a ritual that gives my life meaning and beauty."

So, of course, I ordered her new book.

So I was telling my friends this. Both these women are mothers.

And the mum who has three kids, said she met her neighbour at a party last night. Her neighbour also has three kids, her oldest just a year older than my friend's. So they share a lot of the same insights and overscheduledness, and concerns as their kids transition through their teen years, and sit on the cusp of adulthood. The Mums sit, and with crossed fingers, hope they've raised them as best as can be...

So the neighbour's eldest has gone off to university this year. And my friend said her neighbour misses him. She said there's a hole in the house where he isn't. And when does he pass through her the most? When is his presence missed? It's when she's cooking. When she's making something she knows he loves and he's not there to smell it, to savour it, not there to be enriched by it. And of course there's an echo at the table where he was. The eating without him - the meals are where the echoes of him are the loudest - that makes her realize life's progress...

I just thought that was beautiful - that she had found mindfulness in that.

Have a great weekend.

November 07, 2007

cocktail party for one

Nausea is not for the faint of heart.
And sometimes I really think my heart is faint, I mean quite wussie.

I am just about one week out from my first infusion of chemo cocktail (I'm taking to calling these cocktail parties - and there are six of them in total - the last of which is on St. Valentine's Day).

These last days have been a mixture of feeling sick, but not sick enough to, you know - feeling sprightly and able to vacuum (what evolutionary principle is at work there?) - and spending the entire day under a quilt, on the couch, waking up only long enough to see Barefoot Contessa bbq'ing pizza in the Hamptons, then suddenly Giada slivering up zucchini before her night at the symphony, while I shift the cats' bodies aside to see the screen.

Steve likes to call my tv viewing preferences the Stirrin' and Nailin' Channels - which is entirely true. But I don't care I keep saying, I'm sick. The ultimate argument topper. I get the remote whenever I want.

But something started happening yesterday - I started feeling almost normal again.

I roasted vegetables.

Steve said he'd pick up vegetables on his way home, to have with our leftover roast chicken. But I couldn't wait. I felt good enough after making it through five hours of a workday, so I dug through our baskets, our crispers, to see what lurked there - out came potatoes, carrots and some leeks.

They were tired, grasping for their last bit of glory, their balance of life tipping closer to the compost bin than the roasting pan. But for all their faded colour and limpness, they were headed for as much glory as I could impart.

I sharpened my knife, smiled a grin for me, and started carving. I felt so at home again.

By the time Steve came in to shelter himself from the dark and the wind and the threatening blowing snowflakes, the house was filled with the deliciousness, warmth, security.

Sure. Cook with love. You know I believe that. But it's sorely tested by nausea.

The nose knows and is linked by a superhighway of senses to the stomach. I can't stand the smell of frying bacon right now (and it's the one smell that vegetarians have told me could convert them into omnivores). On the other hand, I love the taste of smoked anything - cheese, sausage. I also lusted through two oranges the other day, and then devoured pasta that I smothered in fried garlic, olive oil and fresh parsley.

In this world of nausea that teases me, the way through it is lust for food. I eat. That is glorious.