It’s been a while since I cooked meals just for myself. I’m rusty and out of practice.
When I lived in San Francisco, in the beloved 954 Potrero apartment, food was the nexus of our communal space. The (orange) kitchen was always filled with earthy foods like sweet potato wedges and butternut squash soup. And, of course, we always had tasty cheeses (hello Wisconsin-born roommates) and beers (hello Wisconsin, again!) in the fridge. We cooked for ourselves, we cooked for each other. We cooked for friends and significant others…we cooked for pretty much anyone who walked through our door. Which, over a few years, twas a steady stream of hungry
twenty-somethings twenty/thirty/forty-somethings. Somewhere between the first and second year of living there, without ever really realizing it, I learned how to cook.
I moved back to my parents house around this time last year, which amounted to a lot of studying, working, and commuting. In between, I taught a few cooking classes, which was exciting and fun, but also a huge learning curve experience! (More on that later)…Truth is: I didn’t cook much at my parents’ house. My grandmother cooks excellent Indian food, and since we eat mostly Indian food at home, we routinely feasted on her dishes (and my Mom’s). The fridge was always stocked with a potpourri of Indian leftovers. Nobody really missed, or longed for, the baked spaghetti squash or kale chips that I periodically volunteered to make. The food I grew accustomed to making was too earthy, too western, too…hippie?
I guess, looking back at my time living at home, I was also just flat out lazy sometimes on the cooking front. I’ll own it.
I’m spending February of this year on the East Coast, visiting friends and relatives. I’m back to cooking my own meals, which is liberating and therapeutic. But having looked forward to this autonomy for a while, now I feel like perhaps I expected too much from this re-entry to the kitchen. I imagined idyllic tap dancing around the kitchen…removing a batch of brownies from the oven with one hand while mixing a fresh salsa with the other. Fresh foods, pungent aromas, an overflowing fridge. It would be just like before.
I’m learning that cooking in other peoples’ kitchens feels very different than when I was cooking in my own apartment (with roommates) back in San Francisco. Back then, when I want a zester or a cast iron pan, I reached into a cabinet and just borrowed Renee’s stuff. Even at my parents house, where I never fully felt comfortable in the kitchen (maybe because I was stressed out about applying to teaching programs and taking certification exams, etc), I still had access to a generously-stocked pantry and spice cabinet. In both kitchens, any family-style dish I cooked would get happily walloped up, which I always liked. This week, I ate the same kale and coconut soup for three meals in a row, and there’s still so much left! I suppose the novelty of “cooking just for myself” and “doing me” is slowly wearing off. After all, part of the intrinsic joy of cooking, for me, is sharing what we make with many loved ones. I am missing family.
Kitchens are sacred spaces. It’s a misguided assumption to presume that one can just step into other peoples’ kitchens and feel that tingly, nostalgic magic we associate with our fondest memories in the kitchen…I haven’t done the work yet to warrant that feeling in other peoples’ spaces. I haven’t invested in the kitchen space, or the appliances, or the decor. I haven’t burned a meal five minutes before guests arrive. I haven’t eaten ice cream out of a cartoon while wallowing on these kitchen tables (I hate to enforce a gendered stereotype, but I really do love ice cream)…At this current stage of my life, I am something of a visitor in the kitchens that I am using—not a season pass holder. And I’m learning to be okay with that, to accept that reality, to appreciate that reality. Not having my own “space” to claim in a kitchen has provided me with a renewed appreciation for the kitchen I once inhabited, and the kitchen I would like to grow in the future in my next apartment. I am reminded of my privileges as someone who even has access to a kitchen and good food practically whenever I want it. I am grateful to the clusters of open arms that, over the past year, have welcomed me into their homes and spaces as I try to navigate how to reclaim my own trajectory in something of a transition year. Sometimes we just need to be patient with ourselves to recognize that these processes take time…
I’m hoping to share my experiences and learning here (on this blog) along this journey in the (evolving) kitchen, and beyond. But my track record with blogging is spotty, at best. I need an accountability system! Could readers help with that? Maybe if I don’t blog at least three times a week, and you–caring but no nonsense reader–remind me of my slip-up, I must send you a box homemade chocolates or cook you a tasty dish! Thought? Ideas? I’m all ears.