I promised to tell you, didn’t I? And I usually keep my promises. (Except when I can’t.)
I cook the way I write. It’s true. I invite her into the kitchen to watch, and you can too. Just stay out of my way and don’t ask any questions.
It goes like this:
I walk into the kitchen. I don’t do the dishes, I don’t wash the kitchen floor.* I shove the crap on the table and counters towards the back to make some space. I open the fridge. There’s nothing, nothing.
A limp carrot.
A can of coconut milk, half-used.
A bag of… what the fuck was that? Cauliflower?
Flora: Mooom! You’re not going to make us eat that, are you?
Jane: I was thinking about it. I hate wasting food.
Cinder: Mooom! Sometimes, you’ve just got to let things go.
It’s true. And it’s a metaphor, too: some things belong in the pot (on the page) and some, even though they’re there… you’ve got to junk.
The bag of cauliflower (maybe? maybe something else? sweet potatoes?) goes into the garbage.
I take my favourite cast iron pot and scrub it clean—what I’m going to do is, I’m going to toss some rice (sushi) and lentils (red) into its bottom, add a beef bone and the carrot…
Actually, I think there’s some frozen chicken thighs in the freezer, yah? Yah! OK. Keep the beef bone? Maybe… Fuck, yes, lemon grass! And in the fridge—was not there a container of left-over bananas-and-peaches-baked-with-maple-syrup-so-good-but-not-as-good-as-when-they-were-hot?
I see… possibility.
Flora: You could go to Safeway and get some groceries.
I could. But that’s a minimum 45 minutes out of my day, and a 45 minute delay on getting supper on the table, and 45 minutes spent doing something that’s really unnecessary if I just work with what I have.**
I’m thinking… Caribbean-Thai fusion. Something like that. Maybe.
I reach for the cast iron pot… mmm, but not in the pot. Is there a pan? There is. Layer, sprinkle—oh yeah, toss in the gnocchi that we’re not going to finish otherwise, why not—and cover with aluminum foil.
Into the oven.
Cinder: What are we having for supper? I thought you were making slop in a pot.
Jane: It’s now slop in a pan.
Jane: Sort of. Except without the noodles, tomato sauce and cheese.
Flora: Is it going to be good?
Jane: I hope so. We won’t know until we taste it.***
Interlude: there’s a freak crazy hail storm, the alley floods and the power goes out. Fortunately, the slop in a pan has been in a hot stove for a few hours; the stove holds the heat. When, storm triage is done and we know we’re not going to flood, I put it on the table.
Cinder: Wow, this is really good.
Flora: Mmmm… interesting. A little weird. Not quite what I expected. But, edible. Definitely edible.
Sean: This is the best thing you’ve ever made, OMFG, it is so delicious, can I have thirds?
(He’s my target audience, by the way. Nailed it.)
Ender: This is disgusting. Can I have a margarine sandwich?
(He’s not my target audience. And I know this, so it doesn’t hurt. Much.)
As I spread margarine on rye bread for the ungrateful child, Sean suggests that “I don’t really like it” or “It’s not for my taste buds yet” might be better ways of expressing a culinary opinion. Ender shrugs. Bites into the effort-free, uncreative margarine sandwich, devours it, thrilled.
Sean: Do you ever think we should just feed them buttered bread for supper every day?
Jane: Sometimes. But. You know.
He reads my mind. Nods.
And… yeah. That’s how I cook.
That’s pretty much how I write.
Now, if you’ll excuse me… I’ve just had an idea for something I could do with that bag of (was it?) cauliflower. Not the one I threw in the garbage—even I have limits. The metaphorical one. The piece I cut from the last piece I wrote? Yeah. Wrong ingredient for that. But I think… if I use it like this… Yes.
*** … I was going to make these metaphors explicit. But I don’t need to, do I? Not for you. Read my mind.