Why I Cook.
When surrounded by unanswered questions and unopened emails and when everything just seems all too overwhelming, I cook. It's in the kitchen that I feel most grounded. There's something deeply satisfying about taking a pile of disparate ingredients and slicing, dicing, sauteeing, simmering, or baking them into something delicious. I love the rhythms of the kitchen – the prepping, chopping, cooking, even cleaning. I can make a mess and then put everything back in its place. It's nice to feel like, in at least one area of my life, things are in order.
But most of all, food is my love language. Not in the "eat a pan of brownies to make myself feel better" way, but in the fact that food often communicates far more effectively than words. A homemade meal, prepared with love, nourishes both the body and the soul. It can soothe, heal, and comfort far more than anything I could ever say. I feel so helpless in my inability to cure Brandon of Lyme or babesia, or from his constant aches and pains, so I cook, and cook, and cook another meal. Hoping he'll feel loved. Hoping it will heal him on some deep level.
Despite the fact that I'm a writer, I often have no clue what to say – especially in the face of raw pain or gaping uncertainty. Writing, for me, is easier than speaking because I at least have time to sit, reflect, make a few attempts, hit delete, and start all over again. When I'm talking with a hurting friend, it's happening in real time. I feel the pressure to try and make things better by saying just the right thing. When, truthfully, what people need most when they're hurting isn't a solution, it's a friend. A shoulder to cry on. Someone to listen. I'm learning that lesson lately through trial and error. Not only by having a husband who's sick, but through dear friends who are suffering from really hard things like leukemia and loneliness and losing parents. Sometimes all I can do is give them a big hug and bring them a meal. It's my way of showing I care.
Sometimes, I really wish we had friends on our block or in our building. I LOVE the idea of having regular "family dinners" with close friends – where I can make a big pot of soup or a pan of lasagna and everyone can walk over with a salad or bottle of wine or a dessert. Simple, but so incredibly life-giving. But for now, our good friends are scattered in other parts of the city or in Brooklyn, and most of them have small kids, so these dinners are infrequent. And planning is hard anyway, with B never knowing how he will feel. So in this season, I cook mostly for him. We eat together at the yellow table nearly every night, and talk about our days, our hopes, our fears, our ideas. I cherish this time at the table, just the two of us.
In general, I try and make really healthy stuff – like veggie-filled lentil soup or roast salmon or a simple stir-fry – especially given how bad B's been feeling. But sometimes I just want comfort food. Which for me means pizza. I love making homemade spelt crust, but if I'm in a hurry, whole wheat naan makes perfect individual crusts. One of my favorite toppings combines three of my favorite ingredients: Brussels sprouts, bacon, and fontina. It's as good as it sounds, and best of all, it takes less than 30 minutes to make.
So if things seem out of control in your life, do yourself – and your family – a favor. Stop by the grocery after work and pick up these simple four ingredients + a bottle of wine (Cava pairs really well with this). Then go home, take a deep breath, put on that apron, and pour yourself a glass. Let your mind wander as you chop, saute, arrange the pizzas, and pop them in the oven. In about 10 minutes, your house will smell heavenly and you'll feel proud of getting one thing really right in your day! Then sit down with your family or a friend or two – whoever you love – and talk about your day. Hopefully you'll feel relaxed, they'll feel loved, and you'll all feel connected.
This is why I cook.
Photos by Signe Birck[recipe:best-easy-naan-pizzas-brussels-sprouts-recipe]