Thursday, June 24, 2010

Kitchen Chemistry

One of Colin's favorite things is to help me cook. His father made him a set of lightweight steps that he can drag around to different countertops and step up to help stir, dump, and smell whatever it is that I am making that day.
He is not crazy about kneading bread, he loves dumping pre-measured ingredients, adores shaking spices into a pot, is meh about naming ingredients when I show them to him but loves to smell them.
He will suggest dishes to make, although his requests usually run to the sweet side. And lights up when I tell him to get his stairs and come into the kitchen to help me.
My parents cooked with us in the kitchen, so did my grandparents. When I talk about my love of all things culinary I refer to myself as a "family taught" chef. I don't have any fancy knife skills and my idea of measuring is shaking out some spices into my palm and tasting a lot. Many of my childhood memories center around the kitchen, my father leaning against the sink with a glass of wine in his hand, my aunt slapping a thinly rolled circle of dough onto the comal to make a tortilla, my mother slicing up fresh fruit for us every single morning, Tamale Day every December when the house was filled with the sharp, heady, sour spicy scent of red chile.
Food is not just fuel to me, it is a process, a blessing, a story told in cinnamon and garlic, in roast chicken and bread and butter. The movement of making dinner, breakfast, lunch, is, to me, an intricate part of what makes me who I am.
When I bring my son into the kitchen with me I am passing on this cultural memory, this kitchen dance. I don't always make the same foods I grew up with (I don't think I have ever left pinto beans on the stove all day to simmer in a rich bacon-y, bay leaf studded broth) and I am not always particularly graceful in the kitchen. But I hope to pass onto my son the love of the process of making a meal. The love of bringing people together to enjoy food that you have made with your own hands, to find a sense of self in the food that you create.
It gets a little deep up in here sometimes.


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