cooking up a storm

by bam

i’ve been clangin’ up a ruckus all week around here. pots hauled from the shadows. pans doin’ doubletime. little gizmos and doodads–squeezers and peelers and plug-ins that do all the work–let loose, some of them, for the very first time.
if it was steamable, roastable, sauteable, i had my hand ‘round its neck. i was plunking sprouts into boiling water. turning legs of poor little lambs into fuel for the masses. i went so far as to drown a chicken in half a bottle of wine.
i was, believe you me, cooking to soothe, to forget, to pretend that the world is the one that i lay on the table.
the urge, really, was unstoppable.
i’ve not been such a cooking tornado maybe ever. did not do that thing with the baking while timing contractions, those stories you read in the expectancy books or laugh through on reruns of ol’ i love lucy. nope. not me. i was too green at the gills, too rumbly of tummy, to ever care much about flour or sugar or whipping or beating there on the brink of delivery.
but this was different. this was me locking the door, wrapping the blanket, standing up to a world that ruffled my feathers. this was me claiming one piece of the planet where all could be as i cooked.
dinner would roll onto the table in courses. why there’d be main dishes, grownup ones, the kinds that often escape me–roast beast, that fine drunkard chicken–and side dishes, too.
i had my best cookbooks off the shelf. and usually that means the ones where the scribbles are all down the page, or tucked onto scraps with the barest of thoughts.
i pulled out the stops. if i could think of a something my children loved, i made it. pears sliced and simmered with cranberries, check. cherry pie. ala mode. you betcha.
i even invented a few things that now will be made on demand. eggplant roasted with baby tomatoes. drizzled with olive-pressed oil, showered with salt of the sea. the last of the rosemary from one of my pots. a pot now on hiatus till spring.
it is autumn, the season for taking out screens, letting the sun pour in unfiltered. the season for slipping on leggings, sneezing through dust that settled all summer on all of your sweaters.
it is autumn, the season for stews and simmering fruits.
but that wasn’t the thing that drove me this week. it wasn’t just autumn. it was aftershock.
it was, and it is, the lovingest thing i could think of to do. for myself and my children and the tall one who stood right beside me.
i would if i could spread my table as far and as wide as the world. i would set a place for every last soul on the planet. even the lost ones.
but that’s just my imagination running amok. and my heart. i keep learning, the hard way, this is not that fine world. i cling like a fool to the notion that redemption is right around the next bend. that we could stitch back together even the most broken heart.
but then there’s the other voice in my head. the one that says, give it up. you do what you can, and then you let go.
well, maybe then, that’s why i’m a mother. because here in my kitchen, at the table i set, i can make mistake after mistake. i can burn the broccoli, raise my voice, undercook the lamb, slam off the tv, but still i can lay out a meal.
i can fill tummies, and repour into the vessel known as the heart. i can crowd the table with foods that whisper, somebody loves you. i can kindle the candles, watch the plates and the faces glow in the dance of the flame, flickering.
i can cloak the ones i most love with the one inexhaustible foodstuff: i can spoon-feed them comfort and love, a cook’s prerogative.
i can close off my eyes to the world just beyond the edge of the table. at least for the minutes it takes to hold hands, drop heads, whisper grace, lift forks, clean plates, and then linger. over pie ala mode.
it’s the ruckus i made in my kitchen this week. and it was, a most beautiful riotous sound.

do you find you too cook for comfort? the distinction i didn’t even get into is the cooking, not eating, for comfort. long long ago, i ate for comfort. overate. ate to go into trance, really. is it a sign of evolution, progression, that now i partake of the communal? i cook to comfort. rather than simply consume. if that’s not a notion you care to nibble on, and since the subject of food always seems to rouse comments galore, feel free to stick to the no-muss-no-fuss, what might be your most essential comforting recipes?