Back To The Grind


It wasn’t too bad a grind.

I like my job.

I like the family I work for.

I like that I get to cook for them.

Cooking is a joyful experience for me.

There is something extraordinarily satisfying about making food for people you care about.

Love is the best seasoning.

Or.

Salt.

Or probably.

Hunger.

Yes.

Hunger is definitely the best seasoning.

But spice is a big part of what makes me a happy cook, a good cook, and a sense of what the family needs and wants and the balance of cooking the way I want is fun to navigate.

“Broccoli soup!” The oldest boy danced up and down and hugged me, “you made broccoli soup!?”

Yup.

His mom likes it as much, no, more than the five-year old.

But, really when I can get a kid to eat something green, it is a lovely thing.

I learned to cook pretty early in life.

I’m not exactly sure when, but I do remember looking at recipes in cook books when I was five or six.

I could read, but I didn’t understand abbreviations and I knew, I just knew, that once I figured out what the fuck a tsp was I would be on my way to magnificence.

The first thing I remember really making, not just monkeying around, but really making, was for my mom’s birthday.

I do not know who let me do this.

I do not know where the parents were.

My mom and sister and myself were living with my aunt and her first daughter in a duplex on the far North East side of Madison.

Who the hell let the six-year-old bake in the kitchen without supervision?

Someone did.

And someone must have given me permission or bought the ingredients?

Those memories are a little fuzzy.

Suffice to say, I baked that day for the first time.

And if we were living in the duplex I wasn’t more than in 1st or second grade.

I suspect I might have been at the beginning of second grade, my mom’s birthday is in November, and I was making her a birthday cake.

I really think my aunt must have been around somewhere, but I can’t recall there being an adult.

I have a familiar feeling of being sly, but for a “good reason,” that I was sneaking around the kitchen, I recall wanting to surprise my mom.

I knew that I probably shouldn’t be making it by myself, but I was going to do it and do it I did.

But really?

I made baked Alaska?

It’s like ice cream pie/cake with meringue that is whipped and what?

I recall making the cake batter and I recall, lowering the electric egg beaters into the egg and cake and milk and oil, I think I must have just been using a box cake mix that said “baked Alaska” on it, there is no way I could have been making real baked Alaska, no way.

Any how.

I lowered the egg beaters in already on and whirring at high speed, which means I splattered chocolate cake batter everywhere.

I mean.

EVERYWHERE.

Like the ceiling.

Oops.

What do you get when you let a six-year-old cook?

A mess.

I don’t remember taking the cake out of the oven, but I must have baked it, as I remember frosting it too hot and the icing melting off the sides.

Ok.

That means it can’t be baked Alaska that I made, it’s done with meringue, all these years I have been telling myself I made my mom baked Alaska for her birthday and I didn’t, no way, I made her some sad ass chocolate cake out of a box with canned white icing.

I remember the way the icing tasted.

So sweet my teeth ached from it.

I think my mom actually did eat the cake.

I can remember it on a plate, slightly lopsided and doused in white frosting.

I was very proud of myself.

And.

I didn’t get in trouble.

Not, anyways, until a few days later when the cake batter on the ceiling was discovered.

Double oops.

My next foray into cooking was for Mothers Day that following spring.

My poor mom.

I made her an omelet with delicious chopped celery and carrots.

Blech.

And tepid instant coffee.

I am not certain what my logic was, or if i had any, but I somehow had no problems with beating the eggs and chopping the carrots and celery (I’m pretty sure I didn’t peel the carrots either, mmmm, earthy) and cooking the eggs in a sauce pan on the stove. But I was afraid to boil water for the coffee, so my mom got some lukewarm water from the tap and an undercooked omelet, really a scramble, let’s be real, that was not an omelet, with cold chopped carrots and celery.

Mmmm mmmm good.

Oh.

Yeah.

And burnt toast.

Hahahahaha.

I got better at cooking.

I picked it up along the way.

Ramen noodles first.

I was great at boiling water, let me tell ya.

Then more complicated things.

Hot dogs.

And then one day, when my mom had remarried and we had moved from Madison to live in the house in Windsor, I learned how to make a pie crust and peel and season apples for apple pie.

To this day I can see my mom’s handwriting on a pink recipe card.

I could replicate it now without thinking.

I learned how to peel an entire apple without breaking a peel and I was very proud of myself when I accomplished said task.

For whatever reason I never used a timer, I learned to tell when something was done by how it smelled.

I still do it that way, although I do follow recipes a lot closer than I used to.

I always find myself modifying the recipe I am cooking and so much of what I make now is not found in a recipe book or online, it just comes to my head and I make it.

I borrow from what the family likes me to cook and I make it my own.

Sometimes I bring in my own food that may have been inspired by one of the recipes the mom hands to me from her little sheaf of pages and the boys will want what i have in my bowl rather than what I have made for them.

“This is delicious!” The dad exclaimed.

Thanks, man.

I appreciate the appreciation.

I am glad I get to do this as a part of my job.

To be paid to do something that makes me happy to do is pretty awesome.

Maybe I’ll be the therapist that treats my clients with homemade chicken soup and dumplings.

Maybe I’ll invite you into my office and feed you a piece of warm apple pie with vanilla custard and let you drop all your woes.

Doubtful.

But it’s fun to imagine.

And with that.

It’s time for me to go.

I need to take a little me time and unwind before I hit the hay and get up and do it all over again.

Sleep tight.

Don’t let the bed bugs bite!

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