Monday, August 25, 2008

Teetering Crockery

Food, largely responsible for keeping me alive over the years, has brought me great pleasure. Like great music, art and literature, food is often inexorably tied to life-changing events, triggering cherished memories and making the heart long for a culinary past with an innocence and sense of purpose we have somehow lost. Such yearnings are completely normal and nothing to worry about.

As it is for so many, my rudimentary cooking skills are wholly derived from the primordial need to survive and to entertain. I have always been an appreciator of good food and have, on occasion, approximated good food in my own kitchen. My greatest shortcoming was a dogmatic approach that valued recipes over intuition--an approach buoyed by the fact that I didn't really know what I was doing. But Kate's influence has led me to trust my instincts and have fun trying new combinations of tastes with less regard for propriety and tradition, and my culinary curiosity has flowered under her aegis.

When I was growing up, my mother did most of the cooking, and cook well she did. My father, who passed away two years ago, had a few specialties including a delicious macaroni salad. I got the list of ingredients from mom in the hopes of recreating it. I did, and it was great--just as I remembered it. I remembered the large white glass bowl we used to serve it in, the wicker paper plate holders at each place at the table and the smell of burgers cooked on our indoor grill (it was like a fireplace in the kitchen that allowed us to barbecue even in the thick of brutal Connecticut winters). Although I made the dish more or less according to the recipe, in the back of my mind I couldn't help but think of what would happen if I were to have a little fun by changing things around or introducing new flavors into this very unpretentious dish.

Thus, the macaroni salad can be seen as symbolic of my awakening to intuitive and improvisational cookery. I can see myself like Sonny Rollins with a spatula, like Coltrane with a cutting board, flinging garnish, slinging fresh veggies and creating new dishes on a whim. With Kate's gentle suggestions and guidance, this blog is a forum for me to discover my inner chef. Macaroni salad seems an unlikely portal to self-discovery, but as sure as God made little green peppers, I'm willing to give it a shot. Come with me on my inner journey...

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