Friday, July 1, 2011


I used to cook a lot, had friends over and fed them, took dishes to their houses, baked a stewing hen to feast my family and honored guests. Then I moved into an apartment and The Husband arrived on the scene.

He is a better cook than I. He is creative and cares about the science and thinks through the process. He has a sophisticated palate, is a self-described gourmand and has had more time in the past few years.

He is also an unbelievably messy cook and of the school of thought that if one person cooks, the other should clean up. So we eat out. A lot. WAY too much.

Then our family Father's Day lunch found me in the kitchen, opening cans and bottles and throwing their contents together. I remembered how relaxing kitchen work can be.

I had high hopes for the baked beans. I started with this recipe from Bush's site and quadrupled it. Even thought I left the sugar the same as the original, adding a can of Trader Joe's chunk pineapple made it super sweet. (I also used TJ's BBQ sauce and organic ketchup.) My folks loved them, and my dad doesn't often enjoy family meals. Since it was Father's Day, score!

Caprese salad: tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil,
salt and pepper,
olive oil and balsamic vinegar
The caprese salad was a little bland because I under-dressed it. I really liked TJ's mixed cherry tomatoes and heritage cherry tomatoes, and the 2:1 tomatoes-to-mozzarella ratio.The tomatoes tasted amazing, like garden-grown.

So many memories in the kitchen. My friend Jerry and I used to play a "what's it need?" game with our cooking. His comments brought a rain of protests one night from other dinner guests who didn't know about our ongoing conversation. 

I remember his kitchen lessons and our food adventures. The quest into the mountains for rhubarb pie. Sneaking baggies into the all-you-can-eat buffet. One time, he made griddled corn cakes and, as a pinch-of-this cook, spent an afternoon measuring pinches for me. Another friend reminded me of the fun day we spent together when he made green chile for my party that evening. It was a long, wonderful, memorable, delicious night.

As I dashed around another time at a BBQ, he taught me a valuable lesson. He made me sit by him on the couch and he promised someone else would do all the last-minute things I was going crazy over. "Just watch." And he was right. People pitched in and no one minded.

The lesson in the kitchen -- and in life -- was not to rush around trying to do it all. Sit, savor the view and a visit with a friend.

And his gravy-making advice has a good life application too: Don't fuck with it.

So, this is me, cooking with cans and TJ's supplies and waxing nostalgic about food and friends.

Each meal a new story, each friend a new adventure. Each memory as Father's Day beans.