A Happy Kitchen

One of my earliest memories is standing on a stool alongside my Mother, shaping bits of pie crust into little cinnamon swirls. I made noodles for Sunday dinner when I was ten years old, and my Mother was in the hospital, recovering after the birth of my baby sister. I was a flighty 15 years old when I substituted cornmeal for corn starch in a strawberry pie.

Since falling in love with a man who had 25 spices in his kitchen cupboard, I have been fortunate to enjoy cooking with him for over 46 years. In 2000 we joined a group of cooking adventurers to enjoy shared menus, stretching our imaginations of what we could create. For the next 16 years, we met several times a year to eat very well. The election broke us, and our group has shrunk to just four foodies. My husband and I canceled a long-planned trip to Asia in February because of the Covid-19 Virus. Now quarantining, as we are all of a certain age, we are still sharing the table’s pleasure. Since July, we are working our way through Chris Kimball’s New Rules cookbook, and it is delighting us in flavors and saving our sanity. We each prepare the same recipes in our kitchens and then FaceTime our dinners to compare and share these new tastes. Our goal is to work our way through these some 200 recipes by the end of 2020. Our local community is rich with international markets where we can find Sichuan peppercorns, red & white miso, fish sauce, and gochujang. We’ve eaten Persian cauliflower omelet, smashed cucumber salad, Vietnamese Chicken Salad, and tomorrow we prepare spatchcock chicken under a brick. I’m using basil, cilantro, and mint by the bunch and enjoying new tastes every week. I keep flatbread dough at the ready in the frig. We realize how fortunate we are to have the resources to shop, experiment, and explore in this way. It is a strategy for coping during what seems an incredibly disruptive time. We are grateful for this path forward.

My antique LUCKY brand pie tin

The pleasure of the table offers an opportunity to transcend borders and cultures. Cooking is a creative act made better when it is shared.  Several years ago I wrote the following.

The Pleasure of the Table

 You just feed them.  You set a table and make it a beautiful experience that they don’t forget.  This is an environmental movement that’s about pleasure.  It’s about bringing people together through the pleasure of the table.  Through beauty. 

Alice Waters

I am from a happy kitchen.
I am from a kitchen that has never known the hunger of empty cupboards.
I am from a kitchen that nurtures the soul, 
makes a feast for the eye and
feeds the hunger of the body.
A kitchen rich in herbs and spices.

Where cookbooks are read like travel guides for adventure, 
and romance novels for passion.
I am from a kitchen that honors the ritual of setting the table, with colorful dishes, fresh flowers, and soft napkins.
A kitchen that serves asparagus in spring, sweet corn in summer, 
sweet potatoes in fall, and canned tomatoes in winter.

A kitchen not ruled by headlines warning nervous Americans what food not eat
or what food to eat for potassium but not for pleasure.
I am from a kitchen that savors the taste, the smell, the textures of many foods.
I am from a kitchen that anticipates the meal and enjoys the time needed to blend the flavors.

In the kitchen, we dance the dance of preparation 
and when completed we share the pleasure of the table.

A round table that expands to make room for more.
A table that holds the food offered to those who gather there.
Food in many colors, food that is crisp, creamy, chewy, cold, and hot.

Food that nourishes the soul makes a feast for the eye, and
feeds the hunger of the body.
A shared table offers lessons of how to live with others, lessons of generosity, consideration, lessons of small bites, and where elbows should be, 
the lesson to try new things, to have gratitude for life’s gifts.

A shared table offers the food of stories to move us through the mood and mysteries that settle upon us,
a place to chew on our choices and to slice through our problems. 

The scientists now claim the shared table produces the oxytocin hormone that increases trust and empathy, 
but those that truly share a table don’t find this news.
The scientists have now determined the brain must be fed, it requires 23% of our energy but in sharing a table we are energized in all parts of our body.
The scientists assure us that food provides glucose and carbohydrates 
but those that share the table know the food provides bonds of love, 
memories of joy, seasoning for life.

In the kitchen there is science, 
in the kitchen there is art, 
in the kitchen there is relationship.

I am from a happy kitchen.

Linda Larson June 9, 2005

8 thoughts on “A Happy Kitchen”

  1. Such a fun way to entertain yourselves trying new dishes!
    I too have had a love of cooking since young. At 15 I was making roast beef dinners.

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