I have never had a kitchen I didn’t fall in love in; I never want to.
And by love, I mean everything you think I mean, always, all the time, all of it; I mean love, in love, whatever. There are a million kinds of love, maybe as many as there are people to fall in love with; and a million ways to know that you love a person, and all my great loves have been kitchen loves: domestic, intimate, easy.
I suppose kitchens are a space for intimacy because I will touch with my hands the things that will go in your mouth; I will taste what you taste; I will work for you, or you will work for me. I will make this for you because I love you, because you need it, because you want it.Cupboard Love, Ella Risbridger
Total time spent in the kitchen is a good indicator of how I’m doing. There are plenty of days when, after a long work day when my back hurts and my brain is so fried I can’t bear the thought of having to do one more thing, we order in instead. And I’ve learned to be okay with that. But when those days occur more often than not, when even on weekends I somehow find myself too paralyzed to get up and put my hands to work (too many choices, not enough choices, never the right choice, what to do what to do – it goes round in my head), I know I have some figuring out to do. May as well cook up some food while I do so.
The kitchen is my happy place. Kitchens are never quite as big as I’d like them to be, the countertops never quite as tall, there’s no room in the house I’ve dreamed about as much as this one (two ovens and a walk-in pantry, to start with). I’m always happier for having spent some time making food. When my head is too full, it’s best to cook up something complicated. Spend an hour or two chopping and slicing, stirring various pots and pans at the same time, my left hand stirring while my right hand blindly picks out the spices from the cabinet, a twirl to open the dishwasher with my foot, close the fridge with my shoulder, trying (and failing) not to leave greasy fingers everywhere. A dance that requires all my attention and deserves all my love.
The kitchen is where I combat loneliness. Melt some turmeric in butter to make golden rice on days of endless gray. Carefully pack Alison Roman’s salted chocolate chunk shortbread cookies in a box for a friend. Learn how to make naan, then again, then again, tweaking the recipe every time until it’s not yet perfect, but getting there. For myself. I’ve taken to listening to music in my mother tongue while cooking and I think of my mom, wish I could cook for her. Or sit on her countertop (which is exactly the right height), a glass of wine in hand, watching her cook.
The kitchen is where I practice mildness. Not in my dishes, I like things bold. Quantities of garlic, salt, spices are guidelines at best. Add some red chili flakes to your scrambled eggs, I promise you. No, it’s the process itself where I try to be better by not having to be perfect. Sometimes things just go flat-out wrong, or I’ll spent an hour on a dish that ends up “okay” at best. Not every meal has to be an extravaganza, I remind myself, you love a simple dish of roasted broccoli, cherry tomatoes, feta and pine nuts, why not have it. It’s good and it’s good enough. Knowing when to push (“yes, let’s put some micro-planed garlic in the naan dough next time”) and when to back off (“this thing, whatever it is, that you resist because you think it should be better but can’t name why: leave it be and let yourself have it”). It’s good enough. Store-bought is fine. I’m good enough. Let’s eat.