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Tag: cooking

proper porridge

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i stand at the cookstove, stirring. and stirring. and stirring.

five minutes, maybe seven, bent in prayer. for that’s what seems to happen every time i stand there, spoon in hand, circles upon circles lifeguarding the oats.

oats + water + salt.

that’s the equation. quite simple. all the rest is alchemy, and stirring. keeping the oat bits from crusting against the bottom of my little blue pot, my pot the color of mama robin’s eggs, my pot that made the trip long ago from merry old england, sacred stirring ground of porridge.

oats in the morning — oats done properly, i’ve found — unfurl the day in slow time. meditative time. if ever the cookstove becomes prayer altar it is at the dawn, when the house is only beginning its morning grunts and hisses and shivers and burps. when the kitchen is dark except for the flame of the burner, and the single bulb that casts its faint beam on my pot.

i didn’t used to stand at attention, not for so long a stir anyway. but then i went to londontown, and one chilly morning i found a plump pot of porridge standing sentry on a shelf at a cozy corner cafe. i admit to being charmed by the name — porridge (poetic, with a hint of the ancient, the celtic, perhaps; and as opposed to the more plebeian, american, oatmeal) — as much as the contents lumped inside.

but then i dipped in my spoon. and what i tasted was pure soothe. if food has the capacity to sandpaper the rough spots of our soul — and i believe it most certainly does — then that first spoonful of proper british porridge declared itself “necessary balm.” balm begging to begin the day, every day. or at least the ones when fortification is needed. when what lies ahead in the hours to come just might fell you, buckle your knees.

while swirling the velvety porridge there in my mouth, i noticed the words on the sweet paper pot in which the porridge was served. again, a call to attention.

here’s what i read: proper porridge prescription

WELL WORTH THE WAIT

porridge is a surprisingly tricky dish to perfect (it’s taken us years to get ours right). stirring is good. boiling is bad. slowly, slowly simmering is the key. you just can’t rush a good porridge. so we don’t.

it was cooking instruction as koan, as kenshu (buddhist notions, both; the former a puzzle prompting deeper enlightenment, the latter a way of seeing).

and it captured my attention, all right.

deliciousness was only part of it. if something so simple demands such attention, such practice, i wanted to get to the bottom of it. even if it meant scraping the golden-crisped bits off the bum of the pot.

i turned, logically, to the patron saints of porridgery. i turned to british cookery writers. and there, what i found — for a word girl, anyway — was as delicious as anything i’d slipped onto my tongue.

consider this fine instruction from f marian mcneill, author of the 1929 classic, The Scots Kitchen, who advises that the oats should be sprinkled over boiling water, “in a steady rain from the left hand, stirring it briskly the while with the right, sunwise.”

which prompted this, the sort of snappy retort you might only find tucked in the pages of the british press, where one felicity cloake (oh, such a byline!), food scribe for the guardian of london, put dear f marian in her place thusly:

“having tested this out, it seems to make no more sense than the idea that stirring them anti-clockwise will encourage the devil into your breakfast.”

mon dieu. it’s testy at the cookstove this morning.

snippy retort aside (or perhaps because of it) this miss felicity has stirred her way to the top of my oat-writer’s heap. read along, and i’m certain you’ll promptly agree:

“to even approach the foothills of perfection, you need to use a pan,” she wrote in arguing  against the microwave as appliance of oats.

or this, weighing the intrinsic virtues of milk v. water (might we note that only the brits would get their britches all in a knot debating the ideal ratio of fluid to fluid):

“scottish traditionalists insist that porridge should contain nothing more than oats, water and salt, but such an attitude strikes me as depressingly dour: after all, if no one had ever experimented, then we’d still be eating pease pottage, morning, noon and night. full-fat milk makes a delicious, but queasily rich breakfast, but, even allowing for the time-honoured creamy moat of milk at the end, porridge made with water only has a puritan thinness of flavour. after a bit of juggling, i settle for a 1:2 ratio of milk to water.”

and finally, from the felicity file, there’s her instruction for how you might choose to finish off your bowl of oaty perfection:

“a girdle of very cold milk, or single cream on special occasions, is essential, (traditionally, it would be served in a separate bowl, to keep the oats hot and the milk cold), but a knob of butter, as suggested by readers, while melting attractively into the oats, proves too greasy for my taste.”

i might never stop stirring, so entranced am i by all this back-and-forthing across the pond on the fine points of porridge.

but one more morsel (or two) before i close the oat bin: it should come as no surprise that a lump of gruel that’s been synonymous with breakfast since the year 1000 anno domini might carry with it a millennia’s prescription and particulars. for instance, the scots saw fit to carve up an oat-stirring stick, one that goes by the name spurtle, and if you’re a proper porridge stirrer, you’ll have one lodged in your kitchen drawer. it’s practically guaranteed to keep your oats from going all lumpy.

and of course, the brits have dedicated porridge pots: the porringer, a shallow bowl, often pewter or silver, dates back to medieval times, and weaves through history, a specialty ware of paul revere, colonial banger of metals when not galloping at breakneck speeds, announcing the coming of pesky porridgey brits. nowadays, the porringer is apt to be a specially-developed double boiler, or bain-marie, preferred for keeping oats from sticking to the pot bottom. and as if that wasn’t plenty, it’s thought that the lower temperature under the oats (provided by double-decker cookpot) might boost the little darlings’ cholesterol-busting capabilities. so scurry along, and grab your porringer.   

but before you dash: the tried-and-true road to proper porridge, for which i turn to no less than london cooking sensation, nigel slater, who instructs:

THE RECIPE
Traditionally made with water ( The Scots Kitchen – F Marian McNeill’s recently republished 1929 classic – recommends spring water), it is sometimes made with hot milk. Stirring is essential if the porridge is to be truly creamy. You need a handful of oatmeal to a breakfast cup of water and a pinch of salt. To quote from McNeill: “Bring the water to the boil and as soon as it reaches boiling point, add the oatmeal in a steady rain from the left hand, and stirring it briskly the while with the right, sunwise.” Add the salt after it has been cooking on a low heat for 10 minutes. Serve with sugar, cream or a little more salt.
THE TRICK
If the salt is introduced too early, it can harden the oats. Porridge needs cooking for longer than you think if the starch is to be fully cooked. It should be served piping hot – try the old Scottish habit of spooning it into cold bowls and having a dish of cream or buttermilk handy to dip each spoonful in before you raise it to your lips.
THE TWIST
Use both coarse and fine oatmeal to give texture. (The larger the oat, the earlier you need to add it.) Stir in blueberries or blueberry compote (150g blueberries, 2 tbsp sugar, a squeeze of lemon simmered for 10 minutes). Raspberry purée is another favourite addition, as is golden syrup and cream. I have been known to add a swirl of marmalade, too, but it might upset the horses.

and that, dear friends, is a proper porridge. creamy moats. knobs of butter. slow road to morning prayer. and all.

are you of the morning oats persuasion, and if so, have you discovered the zen of stirring and stirring and stirring your oats? national oatmeal season

when all else fails…turn to page 200

mac n cheese

for two decades now, ever since may of 1995 when i was plotting my firstborn’s second birthday fete, and i flipped open the pages of my monthly infusion of delicious, gourmet magazine — before it was ruth reichl’s gourmet magazine, before it was defunct, folded into the crypt of long-gone magazines, magazines that shaped our culture and then withered and died, the sad fate of so much of what’s printed in ink on the page — page 200, the page where the binding is coming unglued, the page crusted with splatters of roux, it’s been my no-fail, last-ditch, best-hope-of-filling-a-hole-in-a-heart-by-way-of-the-belly cookery map.

so it was yesterday, a crisp october day, when the sun poured in as if from a flask of molasses, so it was on a day when the boy who’d loped from the car at the school house curb was a boy with a leaden heart. he had so much homework, was so worried about homework, that he’d decided to skip the end-of-the-season soccer gorge on pasta and pizza. instead of hanging with friends, he’d decided he should come home straight after practice.

to make matters a tad bit worse, i wouldn’t be home when he got there. i try hard to keep my nights away to a serious minimum, but last night was a night i’d promised to be elsewhere, in a dim-lit watering hole and song hall, actually, reading words from a page for a very fine purpose, all to raise funds for a most noble cause.

i’m always torn when tugged away from my boys. and at the end of this week, this week when the lights in the kitchen never went out before midnight, because a young soccer player was trying hard to finish all of his homework, often accompanied by the sadness that lingers in our house, it was especially hard to be away.

so i reached for my holy salvation: the plainly-named “Baked Macaroni and Cheese,” ala page 200. it’s a cheesy-buttery bath stirred round and through tubes of wide-mouthed pasta, each tube filling with ooze as much as being wrapped in it. it vies, in our house, with bread pudding, as the neck-and-neck nos. 1 and 2 comforts on a spoon.

over the years, the making it — for me, anyway — is as soothing as it must be for my boys to polish it off in one sitting. assembling its components — the butter, the cheddar, the flour, the milk, the salt, paprika, bread crumbs, and parmesan shavings to finish it off — i slip into priestess mode. my old black cookstove — an industrial-grade contraption that somehow slipped into this old house in the 1970s, never to be removed — is my altar.

i begin my incantations and prestidigitations right there, where the flame is cranked, and the concoctions in my pots begin to bubble, not unlike vats of heavenly potions. with the oven cranked to 375, the kitchen begins to warm. everything about this kitchen ritual is warming. soon, my old sweater is off, and as i stir i imagine my sweet boy coming home to find the big white ceramic souffle dish perched atop the stove, my hand-scribbled note just to the side.

is there a more certain way to say i love you than to have cooked all afternoon? to have reached for the cookery shelf and pulled out the one thing a kid asks for on those nights when his sleepy head hits the pillow but the worries won’t be extinguished?

because a big old vat of mac n’ cheese wasn’t enough, not on this particular day, in the thick of this particular passage, i pulled out the produce bin and piled a mound of apples atop the cutting board. i chopped honeycrisp and granny smith, i didn’t peel — why bother? — and i tumbled the slices into the pot, added a splash of honeycrisp cider, a shake or two of cinnamon, and once again, applied flame to the equation. wasn’t long till the whole house was swimming in eau de apple and buttery-cheese. even the cat ambled back in from the garden.

then i set the table. is there anything that says i was thinking of you quite so quietly, certainly, as coming home to a kitchen table that awaits you, that has your very own napkin and napkin ring at the place where you always sit?

it’s the rhythms we carve into the grain of the day, of the months and the years — simple rhythms, unadorned rhythms, nothing so fancy as a napkin and fork at a place that is yours, set by someone who thought about how it might be to come home harried, and worried, and tired to the bone — that makes coming home feel as if someone just handed you your oldest, comfiest slippers. and a fuzzy sweater to boot.

i’d left the stove light on, and the mac-and-cheese under a foil dome, as i slipped out the door and turned the key. then, not a block from home, i got a message: the soccer player had decided, after all, to skip coming home. he’d hang out with the soccer team, inhale store-bought pasta and delivery pizza.

such is a mama’s existence.

so much for stirring and chopping, in hot pursuit of healing a tattered heart.

but here’s the holy truth: i was the one whose heart was soothed in the long hours of love at the cookstove.

and, besides, mac-n-cheese cold makes for excellent bedtime snack. when the lights go out at midnight.

what’s your when-all-else-fails cookstove concoction?

the magic of mexican fried steak

it’s not happened often, but every once in a while, a boy runs out of gas. tank drained. big empty. not one ounce left.

and so, you tuck the boy in bed. even when he’s longer than the old twin bed. even when his past-noon* feets dangle over the edge.

you tuck him in and let him sleep and sleep and sleep.

you worry about his weary self. you check on him, from time to time, just as when he was a dimpled little boy. you touch his brow. and when you’re sure he’s in a deep, deep sleep, you kiss him on the stubbled cheek.

while he dreams the morn away, you wend your way to the butcher shop. you browse the steaks, the marbled slabs of muscle. you pluck one that’s on a bone.

you decide that in the hierarchy of mother’s magic potions, you are well beyond the need for oatmeal, you’ve climbed the charts to up where red meat looms. only cure that’s surer is one involving hypodermic needles. and needles make you queazy, so you stick to steak and its soul-restoring powers.

this is wise, because when you dare to rouse the sleeping man-boy, you have arsenal in your defense. you have new york strip to dangle.

why, you’ve seen the circus trainers do the same: dangle steak in front of cats, big cats, cats with killer teeth, to turn them into docile kittens.

not that any boy i know would growl or snarl or bite my head off. but when awaking worn-out, on-empty man-boy, i find a steak is handy.

and so on the edge of bed i sat, whispered words of red meat. i saw the smile spread across his lovely face. i saw the eyelids flutter open.

“if it’s too much,” i said, “we can go with oatmeal.”

ah, no, he answered rather sprightly. “au contraire. quite the opposite.” a steak, he said, was in his dreams.

but not just any steak: a mexican fried steak, was what he had in mind. so, with the click of that magic phone that coughs up all the answers, he typed in spanish words, came up with the abuela’s path to steak perfection, or in this case milanesas empanizada. that is, mexican fried steak.

with one swift leap, he was out of bed and down the stairs. he was talking bread crumbs, garlic, egg bath. red meat. meat so red i swear it moo’d.

we put our little heads together, he and i: grabbed a loaf of challah. swiped off the shelf the dusty mini-processor, a chopping-blending whiz my adopted jewish grandma gave me once upon a time.

we splitzed in bread. we added cloves of garlic. we inhaled. we sighed aloud.

we cooked our way to cure. we shook in cumin, poured in salt, cracked pepper. for good measure we added a little packet of something called “milwaukee avenue steak seasoning,” a smoky rub named for a windy-city thoroughfare where you can’t help but stumble over steaks of every stripe and cut.

“it’ll be chicago mexican fried steak,” declared the sous chef, smiling down on me.

and so, through that alchemy that is the holy work of kitchens, with a little splitzing, the cracking of two eggs, and the bathing of that steak, first in yolky goop and then in silken challah-garlic-cumin-milwaukee crumbs (that sous chef dabbed on quite a blanket there of crumbs), we turned the noontime into one of pure true joy.

we were cooking side-by-side. we were laughing, leaping out of sizzling oil’s way. for that deeply adorned steak, what with its eggy under-garments, and its crumby top-dressing, it was dropped in pool of hot corn oil, and it was turning into resurrection breakfast, served at 12:15 on what would have been a schoolday, restoring life to the once-nearly lifeless.

i never cease to marvel at the powers that rise from stove or oven. how what goes on there truly fills our pores, our weary bones. and most of all the tickers deep inside.

by lunchtime’s end, as the man-boy rubbed the last red drop of beefy juice right off his plate, as he sipped the last of his orange juice, he was joyful once again. he was ready, one more time, to take a lap on the track called life.

i rinsed the plate. i put away the fixings.

and i whispered a thank-you prayer to the abuela who’d led us to the restoration grotto, where miracles come to those who wield the fry pan.

* “past-noon” referring to the size of a foot is a favorite family expression, coined by a state-street shoe salesman who once measured my husband’s size 13s and declared, “oh, you’re past noon,” meaning higher than 12s. we have loved that phrasing ever since. and now two of three boys around here are past noons. and one is approaching as swiftly as he can…

what foods in your arsenal hold the holy cure? for the days when those you love can barely make it from the bed? and why do you think the kitchen is one room that holds such mystic powers??

oh, because we’d never keep a cure from you, here’s abuela’s milanesas de res empanizadas, as translated from the original.

ingredients:
1 / 2 Kilo of beef for breading Steak (that’s just about a pound, people)


2 eggs 
Bread for breading (we used three-day-old challah)


Ground Pepper 
Salt 
Oil
(we added a dash of cumin, two cloves garlic, and a few shakes of milwaukee avenue steak seasoning, a heavenly smoky rub from the spice house in evanston, ill.)

preparation:
for perfection, you want to toss bread, garlic, and seasonings into mini food processor. splitz, or blend, in pulses till the aroma makes your knees wobble, and you consider stuffing fistfuls straight to your mouth, skipping the steak altogether.

Season the steak with salt and pepper. 

(you’ll want two bowls: one for eggs, one for bread crumbs; this is a two-bowl process, although abuela won’t tell you so.)

The eggs are stirred well with a fork, and the steaks are passed in the egg, then go through the bread crumbs and fry very well on both sides. 

Served and garnished with lettuce, tomato slices, onion slices.

you feel better already, now don’t you?

scrambled eggs and a prayer

in the end, after all of the worry, and all of the nights of stumbling from bed, retracing my steps to the sliver of light that seeped from the crack in the door of the room that never seemed to go dark…

in the end, after all of the fears that somehow it wouldn’t get done, that papers would never find words, and psyches would crack under pressure…

in the end, after 40 weeks of this school year that everyone labels “insane,” where parents in lines at the start-of-school book sale lean in and whisper of kids pushed to the brink of emotional breakdown…

in the end, it all came down to three eggs, cracked on the rim of a bowl, shells the color of cafe au lait cast in the sink, so many empty-hulled shards.

it’s all i could do here at the end, at the start of the final exams, as the boy who i love inhaled a few last lines of latin declensions, read back over ovid, gathered his pencils and sighed.

all i could do was stand there stirring, and praying. watching the yolks turn creamy and hard, pile high into egg drifts.

i imagined the protein, the strands in the eggs, bolstering all the cells in his brain. i stirred and constructed the scaffold, the brace that would hold up his thought, streamline the answers, hurdle him straight to the finish.

it’s all a mama can do sometimes. stand there and stir, and spiral her prayers.

“channel grandpa geno,” i told him, as i sprinkled cheese in the eggs. “he was a wizard in latin.

“and, remember, this is your national language,” i added, a feeble attempt to lighten the moment, to wedge in a sunbeam of humor, one that drew on his old catholic roots.

and then for a moment, i clung to that thought of my papa, saw him again in my head, vivid and clear and in color: his irish face round, decidedly rosy, his eyes atwinkle as always. i imagined him, an apparition of comfort and joy, see-through and floating, just over the desk of my young latin scholar.

i’d grown up with stories of how my papa, time after time, saved my uncle’s behind and his grade point average, besides. how, under the strict gaze of the jesuits, he’d managed to lift the edge of his test, so from the seat just behind and across, my uncle could peer at the answers.

i imagined my papa doing the same for my firstborn, the grandson he never knew, though over the years i’ve offered him up, made him a part of the canon of story. made sure through the power of word that one knew the other. my firstborn, in fact, can reel off tales of his grandpa. and i can picture my papa beaming, bellowing, at the antics and charms of my firstborn, the one with the mind so much like his grandpa’s.

it’s all a mama can do at the dawn of the year’s final passage: beckon the spirits, call on the clan. all the while stirring the eggs.

it’s time now to let loose of the worries. time now to lean into faith, and the soft chest of my papa.

it’s time to believe in the power of mind and of prayer.

it’s time now to rinse our hands of this year. to bid it goodbye and good riddance.

all we can do here at the end is serve up the eggs and the vespers.

as i scraped out the pan, buttered the toast, i realized this was the last. next year, there will be no end-of-the-year finals. and the year after that, when he’s somewhere at college, i won’t be there to stir–at least not the yolks of the eggs.

but wherever he is, wherever i stir, the prayers will always continue. and as long as i breathe, i’ll channel his grandpa.

for just such a classical challenge and triumph.

believe me, i hear the idiocy of such pressure run amok. i swore back in that book line, that i’d not succumb to the madness. despite my deepest intentions, though, this year crept up on us, got under our skin, jangled our nerves. forgive me for writing about it time and again these past few weeks. but typing is healing. and in the construction of word and sentence, i found wisps of solace. enough some days to carry me through till bedtime, when i got down on my knees and prayed. for holy strength to get to this day. and now, hallelujah, here we are. two tests next week, and i’ve got a senior in high school. holy lord……

editing cookbooks

not for a minute did i realize it was a move in pure self-preservation. nope, i thought at the time, it was merely, er, cute.

yes, a word we avoid here (since we verge so close to the treacly anyway, now and again), it was–linguistic misgivings aside–that very thing, c-u-t-e.

cozy, might be apt. clever, another way of saying much the same thing. the arch of a doorway, the place from one room to the next, carved out for books. a book nook, floor to ceiling, instead of a plain old pass-through from one place to another.

and not just any books. the books we drool over, yes, we do. the ones we splatter, and don’t ever mind. proudly, we point to the tomato paste puddle on page 256. flipping along, we stumble upon the chocolate smudge, the thumbprint of a 5-year-old at the time, pulled up close to the counter, making a tollhouse pie for his papa. oh, yes, the once-lickable souvenirs now caked, dried and pressed to the pages.

yes, up the walls of the archway that spills from our cooking room into the lying-on-the-floor-watching-the-cubs room, climb two vertical libraries for what amounts to my culinary history.

there are the standards from back in the ’70s, when my cooking awakened: molly katzen’s “enchanted broccoli forest,” and frances moore lappe’s “diet for a small planet,” from back when i dabbled in all things lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and hoped to personally wipe out world hunger.

there’s a whole shelf of molly o’neill, once the new york times’ food writer, and the only such times writer i ever mustered the courage to write. (she wrote me back, pithy, punchy, managed to escape bursting my bubble by scribbling a few sweet short sentences.)

there is a whole shelf for baking–something i don’t often do, though i do like to think someday i will. and one for children’s cookery books, from back in the day when my wee ones stirred by my side (complete with eensy-weensy rolling pin and cookie cutters used, oh, maybe, twice a year, tops).

there is a grilling shelf, and mostly it belongs to my mate who’s afraid to light up the flames. and a literary shelf, because of course some of the droolingest writing in the world is on the subject of what’s for lunch, or midnight supper, or trekking through france in search of the perfect langoustine.

but each of these disparate shelves has one thing in common: the 11.25 inches from one end to the other.

and therein lies my salvation, or my penance, depending as always on inclination and perspective.

let’s start with salvation. were it not for the end of the shelf, i do believe i might string cookbooks from now till the dining room, which is around the corner and 20 some feet away.

i would forever cling to irma rombauer who’s insisted since 1931 that there’s joy in all cooking. and i might shove her up against the silver palate twins, sheila and julee (who despite their defections of each other, forever are paired between covers, at least on my shelf).

heck, i might integrate the neighborhood with the settlement cookbook spine-to-spine with beatrix potter’s country cookery book. who knew that gefilte fish balls could so seamlessly swim with fried minnows?

ah, but shelves are not endless. they come to an abrupt and unflinching end. it is known as the wall.

and so, i am saved.

yes, frankly, and structurally.

my house might cave in, what with my delight in plucking a fine cooking book off a quaint little shop’s shelf. why sometimes i have no intention at all, not a one, of stopping and browsing, but then in the winds of some shop, startled by the look of a cover, or maybe merely a title, i hear my name called, in whispers and taunting.

and thus, due to my occasional giving in to the sin of temptation, i am required to partake of the puritan art of decision. yes, i edit. i cull and i toss.

when one new cookery tome somehow makes its way under my transom, i weigh and i think. i meander my way through the books of my life and i make a ruling. if alice waters is to move in, someone else must pack up and leave.

and so it is that the other morning i found myself deciding which pages of my past i would expunge, to make way for the ones that had been piled high on the coffee table since, oh, my january birthday, and perhaps, truth be told, the christmas or two before that.

after much mulling, and pulling, i at last ditched a mere four. their titles don’t matter so much,
(though because maybe you’re nosey–no, i mean insatiably curious–the expired were these: healthy ways with poultry, healthy ways with vegetables, two from my skinny-obsessed days. two from which i’ve not once made a single anything ever, healthy or otherwise.

i waved goodbye, too, to a grilling book that once came, i think, with my first weber grill. i’ve not once followed a grilling recipe, and i don’t think the folks who make grills ought to stray from the bending of metal. luau ribs that call for a can of chopped pineapple, and a splash of cooking sherry just hasn’t lured me since i got the book back in the twentieth century.

last to go was the collection of recipes from my firstborn’s laboratory school, where the global pot of professors’ kids made for a rumbly tummy if ever there was one. asparagus in cream, for instance, followed by porc aux pruneaux, which i take it translates to pork with prunes, though pruneaux does have a classier ring to it than that shriveled fruit my grandpa downed every morn to “keep regular,” as my grandma so instructed while steeping said lumps in lemon and water.)

ahem, as i was saying, it doesn’t much matter which titles are now in a pile to give to the library, the point is that–at least for me, who’s been so, um, ensnared with food for such a very long time–fingering my way through my cookbook shelves is very much a long winding road through my psycho-gustatory past.

and were it not for the need to make room on the shelves, i might never be forced to face, and get rid of, the pages i’ve no room deep inside to any longer remember.

once upon a time all my cooking guides were strict marms who played into my peculiarities–not a scant drop of fat and gallons of vegetables, many a page tucked with my scribblings as i counted and calculated my way to safe moorings.

now, at long last, i push aside such strictures to make way for ms. waters, she who celebrates all that comes from the earth, and our blessings to taste it and wholly partake of it.

at long last what lurks on my cookbook shelves is not tucked away for no one to see. but rather, it’s proud enough, and whole enough, to make for a wide-open arch that anyone can pass through.

it’s taken some time, but at last, the last of my odd cooking tomes is scratched of my name.

it is the deep secret of growing older: we learn to edit the chapters that once held us back, to make room for the pages that, now, finally, lay out the recipe for being deeply, delectably alive.

does your cookbook collection tell a story of you? are there chapters you too would prefer to expunge? are there ones that bring you right back to someone you once learned to cook with?