I use to cook in restaurants. The hours are long. So long. Twelve or thirteen hour days. Sweaty, sticky work. Grimey, dirty, racing around at top speed kind of work. Time flies by at such a rate you don’t have time to use the restroom. Crass men. High strung managers. Gossiping wait staff. The nights were late. It was normal to arrive home at 2 in the morning. Nights like these I remember walking home in the cool night air, barely any noise, even from a car. The only lights I saw sometimes were the few street lights in my town and the blinking light at the four corners. The air was so utterly refreshing. My feet ached. My hands were sore from gripping a knife for so many hours chopping and slicing. My mind raced and shouts of “order in” slowly faded out of ear shot. Then I would arrive home. At my parents counter I would sit and believe it or not, I would calm that crazy wound up brain of mine by reading cookbooks. I would sit and eat whatever was around. Usually some chicken salad, or pecan sandies. More often than not my dad would join me. Sometimes he would even be up making something. Baking something. Stories relaying the memories of the nights events would spin out of my mouth while a whiskey almond scone would replace them. Flipping through cookbooks with my feet up we would ooh and ahh at the photographs and dream about another meal we might just have to try out.
Now as I start to build my own cookbook collection, I still find the same solace in their words. Some truly have a healing power to them. Their matter of fact tone, the reminiscent words of the author can be felt with each step. I usually spend my sunday mornings plotting out the weeks meals. I jot down notes in a blank page notebook. I doodle. I search through my books and decide what I will try out this week. Sometimes I keep with a favorite, but mostly I try something new. I like to view a cookbook like a novel. It is not complete until it has been read cover to cover. Sometimes a few lentils fall out when flipping a page to remind me, yes, I have tried that. I love when the pages are glued together with sugary maple syrup or some other sticky substance. No matter, these pages have been read so many times they are engraved in my memory. Perhaps I should be more careful when cooking up a storm (just ask my husband that is what is looks like after most meals) but I will opt to just let it be. Let it be messy.
My day’s end in sort of the same worn out way they did back when I was a cook. My mind is almost numb. My legs are sore. I am just plain old tired. All this though with a content smile of success on my face. Another crazy day that went just fine. When my “shift” is ending and that tiny gray car comes pulling in, I head to the kitchen, pull a book off the shelf and just cook. While yes, little feet often make their way under mine, I manage to shoo them away for the most part. This is my time and quite frankly I believe they all appreciate it. If not now, someday.
Oh how I love to cook.