The cool of the ceramic tile under my bare feet is a grounding force to keep me from floating off into space propelled by happiness. To the untrained eye, it looks as if I am preparing to cook. To my spirit, it is so much more. It is my chance to create a symphony greater than the sum of its parts. And when I am finished, it is my time to stand back and say, “It is good.”
Stretched out on the countertop before me are the freshest ingredients I can find. There are tiny little fingerling potatoes and delicate Cipollini onions. Each is beautiful on its own but they will marry and create a new thing. Drawn together under the veil of fresh thyme, sea salt, fresh ground black pepper and a hint of olive oil, they will roast until their tender union is complete.
Bright green asparagus are bound in a bundle, full of great flavor and endless potential. Today they will be simply dressed. To make their true beauty shine, they will get sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, a splash of extra virgin olive oil and fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice.
Waiting in the refrigerator is an organic whole chicken. Lord, why is good food so expensive? The price makes me shut my eyes at the register, but it is worth it. There is no fat on this bird and no forgotten feathers. It does not smell like chicken. It smells like fresh. It smells like what life could be. If everyday people woke up and realized how much “what can be” differs from “what we settle for” there would be riots in the streets.
These are my paints and the plate is my canvas. I hardly know where to begin. “Calm yourself,” I whisper. “Focus on your goal.” The meal must be composed and on purpose. No matter the combination upon the fork, it must all flow. The flavors must show love, make love and be love.
My hand extends towards a most alluring sight. It is the deep, rich, sienna red peering out from a small bottle labeled “Smoked Paprika.” I open it and inhale deeply. Under the velvety of the smell of hardwood smoke there is a sexy, musky flavor that is bold and inviting.
With my small finger, I sample a bit on the tip of my tongue. I close my eyes and try to imagine what place on earth I taste in its flavor. Just for a moment, I pretend when I open my eyes again I will be standing in my very own garden somewhere on the coast of Spain.
With its flavor still fresh on my tongue, I open another spice jar. The small, striped pods inside are fennel seeds. The scent of them coupled with the flavor still lingering on my tongue predicts this meal will be divine, but there is one more test. Picking up the shining pink grapefruit, I press my nose to it and it gives over the secret of the citrusy flavor within.
With that, I begin to create. First a spice rub starring smoked paprika and fennel seeds is ground to a dust and massaged into every part of the bird. In the oven it will form a crust to seal in the juices while imparting its smoky flavor. It is striking to see the once almost white bird dressed in so much red. She looks amazing.
As the chicken roasts, the potatoes and onions are seasoned and arranged in a stoneware casserole dish. I am sure this dish has properties in relation to heat distribution and that’s all good. At this moment I am just pleased that even raw, they look inviting against the shiny rust color finish on the dish. The dish fits nicely alongside the chicken in the oven.
If it would not make me appear to have lost my mind, I would do a pirouette in the center of the kitchen to inhale aromas wafting from north, south, east, and west. Soon, the asparagus join in the fray as I slide their dish in alongside the potatoes.
I set the timer on the stove and go into the living room. I am excited about my creation, but I know these things take time. I am on self imposed “time out” or I will stand peering into the window on the oven door trying to continue to be a part of this dance.
After the chicken is allowed to rest, everyone joins me in the kitchen to have dinner. I hurry to the table. I put the perfect amount of chicken, potatoes and onions, and asparagus onto my fork. There are few things as delightfully sensual as the first bite of food in a good meal. It whets your appetite and tells you if what you have before you will satisfy your hunger. It is like the first kiss between lovers.
With the food in my mouth, I draw air in through my nose so I can be totally engulfed by the flavor of it all. A smile curls the corners of my mouth. I close my eyes and let out a moan. “Mmmmmmm.”
I am snapped from this moment of bliss by laughter. I shoot him a wondering look hinted with a touch of attitude. I’m an inch off being angry for being interrupted in the middle of the conversation I was having with my food. “What?” I ask, or warn, or threaten.
“It’s just funny how you take so much joy in food you made. Shouldn’t you wait to be complimented by us first?”
I put my fork down on my plate. It is clear he missed it. He was here in the house the whole time I was painting and composing and dancing and yet somehow he didn’t see a thing. He cannot see the care, the attention to detail or the love. I shake my head feeling less hungry than I was a minute ago.