“I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give.”
– Julia Child
As an ice storm bore down on the south recently, Martin and I hunkered down at home. Grateful to no longer be working, we settled into the luxury of being able to stay put while we waited out the storm. On a cold winter’s day there’s nothing better than a pot of something aromatic and tasty simmering on the stove. Equally appealing is something warm and crusty baking in the oven. So, as the wet, cold stuff began to fly through the air, I dashed out to the garden to pluck some rosemary, parsley and thyme from my garden. Back in the warmth of our kitchen, Martin sat by the fire snuggling a purring cat. I diced onions, celery and green pepper. I chopped rosemary and parsley and blended my version of creole seasoning, filling a hot pot for jambalaya as I worked. The aromas wafted through the air, even as the hood vent sucked the fumes outside perchance for a lucky neighbor to enjoy. At first, we talk mostly about the storm, marveling at how great it feels to be home instead of having to drive on ice today. As I mix flour, yeast, water and rosemary for bread, our attention turns to how many meals we’ve cooked together and for each other.
Long, long before retirement, way back when we were first married and our kids were young, Martin and I started cooking together. As young marrieds we explored all types of cuisine finding excitement in seemingly exotic ingredients as we tried ethnic and regional dishes. We subscribed to early cook’s magazines and put cook books on gift wish lists. Once, years before almost anything could instantly be found online, Martin even chased down the author of a Chinese cookbook after we failed to find it at any of the area bookstores. Responding to his request, the author sent us an autographed copy of her book, which today is well-worn and splattered with the makings of many a great meal. Since there was also a time when it was impossible to find fresh herbs in the grocery store, I ordered seeds from a catalog and started a herb garden. That first year, thinking they looked like weeds, I yanked out all the basil seedlings. But, no matter what, after a long day of work, we enjoyed coming home to make a great meal together, sharing our day’s adventures while we enjoyed a glass of wine in the heart of our home.
As we became more accomplished cooks, it became apparent we each had our specialties. Despite our large library of cook books and recipes, we were also adept at improvising, making meals while we loosely followed a recipe or, perhaps, using only our experience. As I perfected my herb gardening skills and expanded to vegetable gardening, our choice of fresh ingredients outside our back door offered up new opportunities to improvise. As our individual repertoires grew, it was only natural the one with whichever specialty would take the lead while the other assisted. We worked in tandem even as we allowed for one or the other of us to take the lead on any given night. And so it was, as we shared our day thousands of times over and over and over again. In retirement, this ritual has not changed. No matter how we’ve spent our day, together or apart, at the end of the day we come together to cook a great meal with each other, for each other, and just talk, for the love of cooking and for the love of each other.