Kitchen Love

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 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.

Home

Home is a cup of coffee in the sun

Where the doors are moaning all day long,
Where the stairs are leaning dusk ’till dawn,

Where the windows are breathing in the light,
Where the rooms are a collection of our lives,

This is a place where I don’t feel alone
This is a place that I call my home
This is a place that I call my home

Cinematic Orchestra, That home

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be “home” recently, or to feel at home to be more precise. Eight years ago I left my house, my home, my country rather abruptly and moved to the States. We’ve moved around quite a bit here, staying in the same place for no more than a few years. As we settled down in new places, my sense of home expanded – and in the process has become fragmented as well.

Home is safety, comfort, mine. It is my most beloved and my family. Home is a sense of community, of belonging. Home is the smell of dogs and horses, cat hair on my clothes. Long walks with my dad, cooking food with my mom, stirring pots and pans or sitting on the counter while we talk. It’s a soft blanket and two cats next to me, talking through my days with B. in the hot tub. Home is a good book.

Home is driving with the windows open through the Golden State, the wind in my hair. The sun setting over the Pacific ocean, bathing the rolling hills in warmth. Home is with my rubber boots through the woods, feeling the seasons on my skin, biking through the rain. Home is a glass of wine and classical music by the wood-burning fireplace – the latter is hard to find in California, banned in all new buildings, but at least we have wine aplenty. For a time, home was a pueblo blanco in the south of Spain, with the space to detangle my life and find which threads to braid into something new. Home is where I can breathe easy.

I don’t see myself moving away from the West Coast (Best Coast), but I also, still, don’t feel like I fully belong. Moving around every few years, to a new city, new state, new country, hasn’t made it easy to grow roots. I have so many wonderful friends, but so few of them close by. We moved out of San Francisco a year ago, and the time since hasn’t been very conducive to meeting new people, seeing new places, finding moments of connection. This year has made the world small for many of us.

I feel lucky to have so much, a wide net cast over half the world that’s caught this many treasures. But home is not simple. Wherever I am, I long so deeply for the pieces of my heart that are not with me. I can have it all, but not all at once.

There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother’s,
it will always whisper, you can’t have it all,
but there is this.

Barbara Ras, You can’t have it all