my mom is in albania these days. and, for all my modern exterior, feminist ideas and bla, bla, bla, i cannot in clean consciensewatch my dad cook. i can feel at least 16 generations of women turning in their graves and unhinging their jawbones at the thought of me sitting down on the table and eating the food my father has prepared. cooking for a man is in my genes and takes priority over career, dating, even sales at Barnes and Nobles. unfortunate, shocking but nevertheless it is the truth.
and while i lick the cookie batter off the spatula, i can see that i, ahem, went a tiny bit overboard this time. was i that eager to prove myself a bonafidekitchen goddess? it looks like it.
the thing is i rarely get my chance to prove myself in the kitchen. with a mom at home and various female cousins standing by in the kitchen at any family gathering, i do not see the point of showing off my mettle. i do not really have any mettle. i do not even know what it is.
but i am discovering i am not that different after all. am i losing my edge? am i getting old and traditional? say it aint so!
that is why i reflect on why people cook:
1. because they are hungry. we are seeing this reason disappearing slowly but surely.I mean let’s be honest here, in the age of take-out, microwaveable popcorn, internet ordering and fast food, who wants to clean oil off the stove all day long? who wants to burn fingers, have fish eyes nightmares and unclog sinks day after day after day? i don’t and i am sure not many other people do as well. but i can still whip a dinner for four in about 25 minutes. (unfortunately, my DNA does not allow me to cook for less. Something happens to the measures, and no matter what I do, I still end up with enough food for 4 people minimum)
2. because they like cooking. strangely, i am discovering this within myself as well. there is pleasure and abandon and a feeling of accomplishment when one uncovers hot dish after hot dish for the consumption of other people. perfectly poached salmon, fava beans that need to be shelled twice, elegantly shredded iceberg lettuce, delicately blended soup and homemade cookies. all for you. the grunts of satisfaction speak louder than a thousand words. and this is how they get women to become slaves of the kitchen pot every time. as i write, i feel the lonely pan calling me, begging me to use it to create something wonderful again. who am i to resist?
3. feeding the family. it is a sacrilege to let one’s family go hungry. i think the moment that the pizza parlour replaced the kitchen, the family took its last blow. I mean, it is one thing to not be able to cook because of being exhausted from work. it is another to let your family starve and be fed by Chiccio the mexican cook at the chinese take-out day after day after day, until one day you will see a very happy Chiccio, trying on your mother/father day hat/tie/diamond studs. and he deserves them too.
4. because they want to show off their inner god/dess. if i learn that a man cooks, i coo, i awww, i mroowl, and i become putty in his hands. it is such a show of weakness that it makes my heart skip. even if the fries are slightly burnt at the edge and the squid is strong enough to break my teeth. as for women, it is one weapon no man can resist. i remember there was a book in the sixties urging women to have something baking when a man was coming over. i remember my friend secreted in her mother’s soup in her boyfriend’s apt, put it on the stove and stirred it as he entered. pouf, instant ring. i remember being in a holiday trip with friends, and 9 women hovering over the kitchen trying to make salad. that was ugly. (i asked if my help was needed and then sat down to enjoy a drink with the guys. they were smart enough to keep out of this so i followed their example.)
5. because they want to experiment. this is fun too, especially if, like me, you can’t follow a recipeto save your life. i tend to replace and make do with what is readily available. no vanilla, no problem here is cinnammon. no thyme? well, here is parsley. they are both green. and there is no failed experiment, no abhorrent creation that garlic and salt cannot beautify. and if it all goes to the dogs and they refuse to eat it too, there is always the surprise dinner at the Turkish restaurant. they have baklava and shishqebap.
again, i am not a great cook. i cook because i am hungry, because i have to feed people, because it helps to blow off some steam and because it makes me feel a goddess instantly. and it also depends who i am cooking for. i tend to avoid cooking for a b/f, because sometimes out come the unboiled potatoes, the e.coli shrimp and the burnt salad. and i know he has to go. on the other hand, standing in front of the stove roasting hotdogs (I swear to God, no pun intended) can be instant juju power for the hottest kitchen hanky-panky ever. and i am going to shut up now and go back to my pots.