Senora Bennett was forever talking about Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, particularly the infamous scene in both the book and the movie (and the sub-par American remake known as Simply Irresistible)where a young woman’s cooking reflects her various emotions. Though in fiction and film the images of these things are visual, but in culinary execution it’s all about taste.
When I cook angry I cook with fire: peppers, broiling and blackening. I am soothed by the sounds of sizzling. When I’m feeling sensual I aim for the sweet: honey, fruit flavors, sugary vegetables and aromatic herbs. When I wanted a challenge I choose dishes with many ingredients and pots to manage. When I’m unmotivated I try something difficult. Like any art/science there are so many variables, so many outcomes depending upon the slightest change.
Each recipe I list here is rarely done the same way twice. For my mother the breakfast potatoes might have more butter and be cooked in chicken broth. For my vegetarian friends and lovers I add more color and ingredients to give their palates more of what they crave. I’ll do spaghetti sauce the traditional way for the sticklers, but when it’s folks who like things turned upside down, who knows what I might throw into the pot.
I remember the care I put into these vegetarian fajitas I used to make for an ex of mine, studying and measuring because that was who she was. I wanted her to know that I knew to reach her through her taste buds. I remember the pleasure that came when she begged me to make them week after week, and when she liked having me at the stove more than herself.
I get excited when I have friends over to test out something new. My homie Kaypri was the best test subject as she was usually in a tight budget and didn’t know how to do a whole lot of things in the kitchen. I made her a Sesame Shrimp stew that she lapped up several bowls of. I love it when the pot or pan is wiped completely clean by the given guest.
I look forward to says in the years ahead when I have finicky little ones to deal with, babies on the fats track to being too cool for school that I have to few at least half the time. The challenge is make it quick and good and free of any whining from your designated offspring. I made french toast for my boy Glass and his family and the next morning had a shirtless four-year old asking me to get up and do it all over again.
Not unlike music, or writing or film, the judging comes in what the final product evokes. When it comes to those close to you it’s not your technique that matters to the consume as much as how it tastes and how they feel as they hopefully woof it down. I love the woofing. It’s what encourages me to do what I do. Out.