Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I was going over some ideas to get this blog back on track when I read a letter I had written to my cousins a few years back.  They encouraged me to write The Sensual Table and I felt like I needed to go back and find inspiration.  

At the time of my first post (and pretty much throughout most of it), writing about food was an incredible outlet for me.  I was a bit low-spirited back then and writing about food was a wonderful escape.  Cooking was something that I did pretty much all the time and I loved it.  I worked in a commercial kitchen and when I got home, I went to work in my own kitchen cooking for my family, my friends, and basically anyone who was willing to eat it.  One Christmas, my brother's American Airlines flight crew joined us for Christmas dinner.  They had a layover at PVD and I had no idea who any of them were, but I just couldn't bear the thought of anyone being stuck in a hotel on Christmas. 

So I cooked.  And I wrote.  And this is what I first wrote of how I felt about food:

What is food to me? It is more than simply my passion…it is my breath, my essence, my true being. It is one way in which I communicate with others. What is better than watching the raised fork, the moment of that first taste, when one smiles before speaking, when eyelids gently close as the now-empty fork lingers in the air, swooning almost…what could be better than that? That is what food means to me. It is delicate. It is rugged. It is seductive. I have a slight obsession…have you not noticed?

If I had to think of something that maybe makes me different from others (not a better way mind you, but a different way) I would say this:
  • An absolute passion for all things culinary: fresh produce, raw meat, creamy cheeses, pots, pans, knives…you name it! Sniffing, touching, looking….often it’s not even in the taste of the food, but simply the form. And beauty has so many forms.
  • An unwavering desire to learn about food’s culture. When I meet someone from a different ethnic background, I force myself to wait an allotted amount of polite time before I blurt out, "What do you cook where you come from?!?" 
  • Really, must I mention the caperberries again? Because suddenly I’m overcome with the desire to taste its brine in the kiss of a lover. Mixed with a martini, of course. Good lord, Maria…. 
  • The love I have for sharing food with others. To share with them something that not only nourishes, but brings joy…that pleases me most of all. THAT is what makes my heart pound, my blood flow, and mouth smile.
As I write, I think that perhaps these things don’t really set me apart from others all that much. So, how can I delve deeper and find out what it will take for me to expand. OK, let’s see. I love: 
  • things that grow in the ground. I love to sit in the dirt and take food from the earth. To brush dirt off things and imagine how I will prepare it. And in the heat of the summer, I love the feel of the hot dirt on my skin, tomatoes warm on the vine.
  • to go grocery shopping. I could go every day and never mind it. The greengrocer is my favorite boutique. The creamery is my L’Occitane. (btw…it’s pronounced LOX-EE-TAN, I checked).  
  • I love reading cookbooks. The internet is fine, don’t get me wrong. And I love my kindle. However, nothing can replace (for me) the heft and feel of a well-formed cookbook. Pages heavy with photos of the food that I cannot wait to recreate. This is my porn.
  • Saturday mornings. Not because I can sleep in, because I can hardly ever sleep past 7:00. But because Saturdays are a blank canvas for me – I will have all day to cook if I choose! So I lay in bed in those first few moments after waking, thinking of what I will bake for my family’s breakfast. What will I simmer or braise for dinner? I make menus like some folks make chore lists.
  • that I have come to the happy realization that I am completely, and hopelessly, in love with food. I don’t even care if I get to eat it most of the time. But to visualize, to create, to share….this is what makes me….well, me.
I find comfort and solace in the organic preparation and presentation of food. Fussy and ostentatious displays of food jostle me, make me anxious. I find there to be such a subtle beauty when food is presented in simplistic format. Food with sugar spikes frightens me. Froths and foams cause me a small amount of despair. In the words of Patrick Henry, “Give me substance or give me death.” Ok, I’m paraphrasing (and using poetic license), but you get my drift. The only froth I want is on my cappuccino, thank you. Otherwise, I’m reminded of seafoam, which is never EVER that lovely blue-green hue, but a brown, bubbly mess on the shore embedded with bits of dead snail. Oh my, I’m sorry…tangent. 

Food is where I find freedom, it is where I find peace. Supple slices of fresh mozzarella languidly awaiting the warm drizzle of a fruity olive oil. Freckles of freshly cracked pepper sweetly gracing each slice…there is such an immense beauty in things as simple as these that can make me cry.  I am alive, my soul breathes, and I face another day because of this wondrous thing called food.