Sunday, September 27, 2009

Emotional Cooking

I've been trying to figure out what is going on with me lately because I haven't felt like cooking for such a long time. Then my mother passed away and when things sortof settled down I found myself pulling out some old country cooking recipes. I plan out the menus for the week and then come home from work and sort of mindlessly work my way through these recipes.

A waitress once said to me, "Boy you can really throw down some food!" And that's a little bit of what has been going on in my kitchen lately. Sundays have become super soup Sundays - tomato and beef, vegetable, chicken noodle, minestrone. During the week it has been mostly chicken and ground beef - chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, fried chicken, beef and tomatoes with cornbread. Every now and then a dessert of applie pie or a very sloppy and sad looking caramel cake.

On the one hand the cooking has been very mechanical. Following the precise measurement of ingredients and walking my way through it. This removes the creative instinct and good judgment. There is no "being" in the moment with this approach. Sometimes the food is pretty good, other times it is not.

But this has gotten me back in the kitchen again. And I realized as I was reading The Flavor Bible that this has been my way of dealing with my mother's passing. It is as much about tasting with my heart as with my tongue. Making food that my mother made when I was a child. Oh, I can never compare to her in skill, but it's the emotional memory of those times with her that I am looking for. And I'm taking comfort in cooking the food I know.

Soon the mechanics of it will fade out, and I will be back experimenting again. Once again I will pick up the palate of the chef I am seeking to become and the old standby dishes will have a unique twist to them. But for now, I am letting the healing process take place in the kitchen. Tomorrow night's dinner? Chicken in Red Wine Vinegar!

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