18 August 2008

work

I am a cook. I have sliced and roasted, toasted, stirred, sautéed, pureed, baked, boiled, measured, chopped, spooned, spread, diced, mixed and shredded.

Today I poured the muffins into the tins, and made the scones. The scones plop down onto the metal trays one by one filled with all kinds of mouth-watering things—cranberries and almonds, walnuts and chocolate chips, cinnamon, apples, raisins, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, bananas. There are times when there are chunks of butter in the dough, so that when you bake them off, there are little glistening pools. They steam a bit. They melt in your mouth. They are biscuity outside and soft inside. Golden brown on top—that’s when you know they are done. You don’t set at timer. You check back often.

There is the flour, patted off my hands and onto my apron a hundred times a day. Buttery off-white sugar cookie dough made in the big mixer. Its texture is fluffy and soft; you can barely taste the cream cheese and vanilla, but they are there. Sugar cookies with with vanilla butter cream frosting on top, sprinkled with shiny, brightly colored sanding sugar to decorate the sunflower and ice cream cone shapes.

The colors and textures—you wouldn’t believe them: the waxy skinned green zucchini and cucumber; red tomatoes that smell like heaven. The eggplant with the skin of a shark, the skin of a seal, the waxy deep purple skin. It is a bit squeaky; is shiny and waterproof. Amazing God-made thing. Squash with its spongy texture and intricate patterns of dots and seeds inside, like a henna tattoo in white.

Then there are the watermelons, with their stippled green outer layer and surprising pink insides. The juice runs out when you pick up the slices; soft and crunchy at the same time. Who could think of such a combination? As I slice, I think: what if we had to describe our food to aliens, to people who didn’t know what watermelon was?

At 8:30 I go out to cut stems of basil that grows as tall as your waist in the back garden, near the fire escape. I feel like a culinary florist. Snip snip.
Today I make small focaccia pizzas on herbed bread with garlic and olive oil, provolone, artichokes, roasted red peppers. Tomato, basil and mozzarella. One that is savory sweet: spinach with tart cranberries, gorgonzola and a drizzle of honey on top. Cheddar in slices, mozzarella in soft shreds, parmesan in even shards, feta in tasty little crumbles.

I stir the giant pots of black beans and onions, tomatoes and cilantro. Make rice with spices and lemon juice and garlic to go with the falafel patties, baked in the oven until they are brown and crispy. Tray after tray after tray brushed with olive oil and filled with sliced vegetables for roasting.

The kitchen smells of cinnamon, then of garlic and onions, then of chocolate chip cookies. I need to chop thirty potatoes—chop until my fingers are numb.

Everything has a process, but to me it is a wonderfully loose science. There is always a new combination to be made to fit your mood—a subdued tomato garbanzo bean soup, an ostentatious three bean wine and cheese soup with crusty toasted bread to go alongside. A new flavor fitting to each season—roasted apples with sautéed onions, honey mustard and brie on wheat bread. Depending on the busyness of the day, we make treats in secret. Our favorite is croissants stuffed with roasted walnuts, raspberries and chocolate.

We eat together, tasting new experimental recipes. Maybe this is why when you work in a kitchen with someone, you feel a little like family. We eat together standing around listening to someone’s mix cd brought from home, or to NPR’s morning edition. It sounds funny, but there is a whole world inside that tiny space. We talk about unexpected things, things that would surprise you.

Everyone brings their hunger to the kitchen, if you know what I mean.

When it is time to leave, my feet ache a bit, and my hands are stained with the ingredients I have used. I am covered in a misted film of olive oil, spices, flour and butter, and the smell of roasted coffee. I untie my apron and pack up my cds, and emerge into the intense sunlight of the hot afternoon. Later, I find a stowaway slice of zucchini in the cuff of my jeans.

I have been a cook. And now, back to school.

7 Comments:

Blogger Rosa said...

I love cooking also, and you make it sound so sensual... My family loves my cooking but complains because I never make the same recipe exactly the same way...I always make some difference, experiment, you know!? Does anyone else do this?
love in Christ,
Rosa

6:47 PM  
Blogger Daphne said...

i love this post!! it makes me miss you.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Courtney said...

So glad you are writing. Love you!!

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Neil E. Das said...

Very nice piece, Angela. Very visual. Almost like a short film. It all sounds very tasty and you sound like quite the artisan.

12:40 AM  
Blogger April said...

can i bring my hunger to dinner?
miss you...

10:16 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

you are so damn beautiful ange!!! you are the best writer ever!!

12:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was unexpectedly sentimental with you. nice. could you write that way about school? i think i'd like it better then
~april

12:02 PM  

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