Paul doesn't know he's guest-posting, but I'm his mom, and he sent me this beautiful bit of writing that made the Jolly Roger and me puddle up a bit, to remember Paul's grandmother who passed away a year ago this week:
December 9, 2007
I (re)discovered it today. Surrounded by friends and loved ones, sitting around the table mid-meal, it slipped out.
It started with a good bottle of wine. I have never considered myself much of a wine person, but I am and will ever be a sucker for a nice pinot noir, price be damned. A few days after purchasing said wine, I discovered that Heather (my wife) and I were going to have friends in town for a visit. Aha! No sooner was it purchased than the perfect excuse to uncork that bottle comes sauntering in. I quickly decided that I should probably cook a little something to go along with such an excellent wine. These things always start small…
Things quickly snowball from an idea like that… What I initially planned to be a small meal to go with wine, quickly ballooned into four courses (I’ll write about the food further down, that’s not the point here), and I realized last night that I was going to have to get up much earlier than normal if I was going to pull this off.
A few hours of shopping, driving, walking, talking early this morning, finding the right ingredients as my wife and guests dozed.
After a leisurely stroll down to the farmer’s market for breakfast, I left my guests in the capable hands of my wife to tour the town and see the sights as I returned to the kitchen, which would be my home for the next several hours. Hours.
Hours of searing, chopping, dicing, slicing, frying, stirring, kneading, whisking, rolling, rising. Flour on my jeans, blood on my hands, sweat on my brow.
Soon (sooner than I realized), my guests were relaxing in the living room, appetites already whet with anticipation at the sounds and smells (and occasional profanity) emanating from the kitchen as I struggled to pull everything together.
And I did.
As I sat around the table, laughing and communing with good friends over food I had spent hours preparing, A thought formed and slipped out before I even realized I had thought it. I felt like I had finally tasted some of the satisfaction, no, joy that my grandmother must have felt at seeing her whole family around the table (groaning under the weight of two days worth of cooking), eating food that she had made with her own hands. It’s indescribable. That’s why I cook. Not for the satisfaction of a job well done. Not the admiration that people give so freely when they have a belly full of food. Not the idea that very few (relatively) people can or could do what I do. Not even the joy of doing something well for its own sake. It is the joy of seeing the blessing that people receive through me by the application of my time, work, and skill. I get so infrequently to experience that necessarily rare joy that I can forget at times why I cook. But I will never forget that same joy in my grandmother’s eyes as she saw everyone pull up a chair to her table, eyes out-pacing their stomachs almost instantaneously.
Tonight, there was that fleeting moment as I uttered the words, where pride simply could not creep in and taint my joy at seeing the people around me so happy.
That is why I cook.
Okay, now some obligatory foodie stuff:
Bread: Basic white yeast bread, homemade
Pan-seared Scallops with Celery Root Puree, Sauteed Shitake Caps, and Lemon Shallot Wine Sauce
Mint Fettuccini with Lamb and Black Olive Ragout
2006 Four Graces Pinot Noir
Roaring 40’s Blue Cheese and Drunken Goat Cheese
Orange Saffron Panna Cotta