Slicing some cantaloupe for the girls this morning, it occurred to me how often I think in food. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Not only is it the natural hub of our house – open to the family room, laundry area, main hallway, and directly leading to the backyard – but with growing kids who are gluten-intolerant and mom-cooking-experiment-tolerant, this is my laboratory. The pantry is a walk-in, always overstuffed, and the refrigerator would be a great place for a photo shoot for one of those ISpy books.
So most of my time is spent in the kitchen. I’m usually on my feet, slicing, mixing, cleaning up, grabbing a quick snack, making a smoothie or espresso, little snatches of time here and there, and either the kids are out playing or waiting for sustenance, so I get to grab quick snatches of thought here and there, too.
Every time I slice cantaloupe or honeydew melon, I think of Susan who used to cut melon for us kids and who taught me how to slice it easily.
When I am topping my own pizza, I remember Carlos and Laura filling up the kitchen with their laughter and 13 homemade pizza crusts, Carlos wearing most of the homemade pizza sauce and Laura and I trying not to explode in giggles.
Throwing ingredients in to the crock pot for chili, I conjure up visions of me on the kitchen phone with Mom guiding me through the steps – her at work and me a latchkey kid. The long phone cord stretched between the wall and the counter, receiver tucked between my shoulder and ear.
Walking through the produce section at the grocery store, I look at the kiwi and recall a girl I used to work with who ate them whole – like a big, fuzzy strawberry. I think of Dad when I see vine-ripened tomatoes. He used to sit on the back porch, slice them open, salt them liberally, and devour them.
It only takes a split second for these images to float through my mind, but I am rarely without some association of a special or unique person in my life when I prepare food. Maybe that is why I enjoy cooking so much. It is certainly not a solitary activity, although I am often performing the activities on my own. I am often cooking for friends or family, and as I go through the motions I am surrounded by others who help me to feel good about the history of the recipes or my own history with food. This groundedness in nourishment is settling for me and nourishes so much more than my belly.