Monday, January 4, 2010

Lily Eats

Petticoats and Petticoats

There are things which don't begin to be true until we know them.
First, rules. Like a voice telling your Italian family you don't need meats or cheeses will never be heard above skinny hips. Never throw out the runoff from any pan. MFK's sacrosanct footnote that coffee is good with cream at dawn and black at dusk.

Then your equipment, which is another way of saying instincts. Suddenly a mortar and pestle makes sense next to the olive oil, you know that the cutting board doesn't need to be scrubbed so much as brushed clean, one sweeping motion over the trash can: Here's where the secrets are. If you are eating your best--which is to say, hopeful where you can be and truthful where you cannot--this trash can will not be trash at all, but an unmet opportunity to begin composting. Not papers and foils but seeds, stalks, partly-zested rinds. It will be a testament to your craftiness if it's clear you tried to boil every part of the beast before calling it unusable.

Next your observations. At the inception of this new world, the lipstick and grit, your entrance of the kitchen, it quickly becomes clear that what matters is not what you know, but what you notice. A friend off-handedly mentions cardamom in a letter about her mother's illness. A glance past a lover finds her herb garden, the soft marvel that, it being December, you are all still alive. A bite of a cookie becomes a wonder at the differences between mace and nutmeg, the scents from two dry jars.

Finally, your questions. Can it be the same, to eat yourself and to feed others. To eat and to think about eating. The days off the calendar mark with surety that we know something real happens here, but after all this time do we have no name for it. At our inarticulate best, we recognize it as a shape-shifter. One moment, peppermint tea, then the cloudy day we chose for baking bread, then the specter of some retired warrior we resuscitated in time for seasoning: with bravery here, cayenne pepper. Questions like where do we get our power and where can we buy the best onions. Why is all soup better the second day. Is anyone thinking this through.

As an aside, which comes easier than an answer. For those nervous: Dismay your mother-in-law by trying chocolate and bananas in the same cake. For those frightened they will drift off the ground, a tin of muffins will serve as anchor at a party thrown by any decent former love. For those unplanned, the hotter curry powder is best. Seats without backrests will keep you all upright, and in rich, good behavior. And conversation, conversion will come.

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