I try really hard not to write about Matt all the time. As my excitement about us has settled into a warm-fuzzy love, his presence in my life has become an everyday treasure. Rather than writing about him, I write to him. Ours is a relationship that is nurtured by e-mail. Matt and I don’t talk on the phone very much, and we see each other in person about once every two or three months. But e-mail? E-mail is essential. We go through phases with e-mail. Sometimes we write every day. At other times, it tapers to a few times a week or maybe a cluster of shorter, funnier e-mails. I’m terribly romantic about e-mail. It’s a little like leaving a flower for Matt, a sweet little gift that he can open when he’s ready. Once, when we were talking on the phone about relationships, he described ours as a tree that we planted together. When we’re apart, we take turns watering it, sitting by it, gazing up into its leaves, and admiring its strong trunk and slender branches. Neither of us owns the tree. Its roots are a tangled web of our hearts; it is grace and hope and faith. It is love.
Besides love, there are all sorts of interesting things that somebody needs to write about, and I figure I’m a somebody who likes to write, so I’ll give it a shot. There are things I adore in addition to Matt, things like Breakfast Crostini and falafel, zucchini and farmer’s market-fresh basil. But my kitchen…as much as she loves those things, I think she loves Matt more. I don’t really blame her: he could charm anyone with the way he wields a knife. Her problem, though, is that she’s not nearly as portable as I am. And she knows I spend time with Matt in other kitchens in far-away places. She’s accepted that sometimes he and I go away without her, but she begged and pleaded with me to let her write Matt another letter, one where she could tell him how she feels about him. I couldn’t say no, mostly because she controls things like the stove and my radio’s power supply. But I’m a big softie, and love letters make me melt into a puddle of warm-fuzzies, so really, I couldn’t say no because it would go against everything in which I believe.
I don’t believe in censorship, so I had no choice but to let my kitchen write her letter her way. Note that I haven’t even deleted the embarrassing things about me that she feels compelled to tell the world. Now that I’m blushing, it’s time for me to hide under the table.
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You are my favorite visiting cook. Rose-Anne’s been awfully social lately; there have been sister visits and cooking parties, but it’s only when you step up to the counter that I get shivers of anticipation. There’s something about the way that you handle the food, gently but confidently. The act of cooking is a holy mixture of earth and magic, the material elevated to the sacred by the love and respect demonstrated during the act. In this way, cooking is not that much different than sex—so much power hidden within these earthly pursuits.
Few foods are earthlier than potatoes, but even the potato is a thing of beauty in your hands. I love to watch you chop—it’s so much more practiced and graceful than Rose-Anne’s chopping. You should give her more chopping lessons; I think she’d appreciate it. But she does have some mad skills when it comes to menu planning, don’t you think? I love how you totally called her bluff about dinner. She stammered, “Well, I’ve got a lot of food on hand…if you think something sounds good…” You looked her right in the eyes and said, “I assume you have a menu planned.” Aha! Right on, my friend.
But you know, I think you’re wrapped around her finger when you come to visit. In case you didn’t notice, you did an awful lot of the cooking that weekend. There was your lemony, garlicky kale and your off-the-cuff roasted potatoes to go along with a Southwestern Tofu Scramble. Rose-Anne loves the way you love cooking with her. She was secretly pleased when you took it upon yourself to search the spice collection for something exciting to rub on the potatoes. It was a gesture that spoke of comfort and pleasure, like you know you are always welcome to poke through the spice collection. (Of course you are!) It was also a chance for you to show off that fabulous palate of yours, the one honed by years of cooking and tasting. By the way, while your back was turned, Rose-Anne kept stealing sips of your rum. She says it tastes better when she drinks it out of your glass; that’s why she doesn’t pour her own.
The best way to show affection for someone is to share something with them: a story, a cookie, a laugh. Those who cook share their pots with each other. You may recall that Rose-Anne has been plotting to buy a new soup pot for several months. It’s no coincidence that a Le Creuset soup pot finally showed up a week before your visit. Those Sur la Table employees—they crack me up! They were beside themselves with excitement about her purchase. “You are going to love cooking in it!” “We’re so happy for you!” And I have to say, after seeing Le Creuset cookware in action, their excitement seems entirely appropriate.
As if buying Le Creuset for the first time wasn’t enough, Rose-Anne didn’t even cook in it until you came to visit, although she did kiss and cuddle with it a few times. (I hope you’re not jealous.) What a memorable Saturday evening you two created: Le Creuset, Autumn Cream of Onion Soup with Brandy and Cider from Soup and Bread, your caprese salad made with gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, and an outrageously delicious wine from Duckhorn Wine Company. Yes, I agree: “Paraduxx” is a ridiculously stupid pun for a wine name, but with wine that good, who cares what they call it? They could call it Bogwater and you’d still drink it. Although maybe they wouldn’t sell very many bottles of Bogwater. And the ladies might question your taste in wine.
I think you have excellent taste in all the important things, like onions. I loved how excited you got about slow-cooking the onions for the soup, the way you coaxed them into sweetness with butter and time. You even heard them squeak and showed it to Rose-Anne, a little mousy squeak of buttery, softened onions against the immaculate cream-colored enamel of brand-new Le Creuset. These are the pleasures that cooking brings. Happy are those who have found pleasure in food and cooking, for they have found a way to turn an everyday chore into a most sublime experience. And happy is the woman who gets to cook with you, for she is tasting the flavor of your love.