Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Like Water for Chocolate

Cooking is an art form to me. Laura Esquivel’s novel moved me so much when I read it, over a dozen years ago. It spoke to me, to my art, to my expression of love. Now that I reflect back on it, I’m not even sure when I read it except I know I was living in Massachusetts. It is one of those books that I’m afraid to reread, what if it doesn’t cast the same spell on me? What if the lyricism of prose doesn’t wrap me like a soft blanket as it did all those years ago.

Several years ago I found a quote in a cooking magazine, “A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.” ~Elsa Schiaparelli. This quote lived on my fridge for years, in Northampton, in Oakland, it’s only now in Berkeley that it doesn’t grace the pebbled surfaced of my ancient and greatly dislike side by side refrigerator. I know I packed it, I just don’t know where it is located in paper form, but it lives in my heart.

I haven’t been cooking much in the last year, though every once and awhile I get greatly inspired. Yes it’s true I have felt hampered, just a bit, by The Girl Friend’s great love of Rice-A-R*ni, Mir*cle Whip, and Fr*tos (though not necessarily together). In fairness she has been adventurous and brave, tasting everything I have made, except for my magnificent Cranberry-Pineapple-Orange Relish with Walnuts. It is truly, deeply, madly amazing but The Girl Friend is a confirmed cranberry avoidant of long standing.

It is also true that we have had quite a busy life since setting up housekeeping last April. First there was the glee of living together able to fight at will, launder at will (don’t laugh this had me jumping with joy for months!), and well, you know, at will. Then came our Puppyman and foster cats. And more foster cats. And more foster cats. And a few foster pups. A couple of parties, a wedding, and a working vacation in Maine, school, and Sunny’s diagnosis.

None of that is a good reason for abandoning one’s art. It is true that I have taken up a new art – knitting. Again, how can I abandon something that makes me so happy? I haven’t truly abandoned it, but it is on the back burner, please do excuse the pun.

In conversation with Sunny, I was reminded how cooking with love does really change the taste. While I was visiting last month, I made mochi. To say that I cooked it is really stretching the definition of the craft. I cut the stiff glutinous mass into manageable squares, placed the blandly beige coloured pieces on a baking sheet and place said sheet in the oven. Sunny hadn’t had mochi (it's made right down the road from in Emeryville!) in eons, neither had I. She usually fried the mashed rice taffy-like sustenance. Being health minded, and really not wanting to wash the pan afterwards I baked them. When exposed to heat the flat hard quarter-inch thick boards puff up into these glossy brown Stay-Puff chewy gooey blobs. She has been eating mochi since I left, usually with blueberries (why blueberries you ask, especially given she lives in Westchester County NY and it’s March? Because the infamous Dr. Hoffman believes they have special nutrients that her post tumor, post chemo body really needs). But she says, “somehow they never taste as good as when you made them, even when I bake them.” The magic of love seeps through your fingers, even to the most basic equipment so that fingers and knives contaminate the food changing the taste forever.

1 comment:

Wyatt's Mom said...

I wrote an entire post about our food issues. I didn't feel that I had enough space to defend myself here.
Go here if you forgot where I was:

The girlfriend.