Saturday, February 23, 2013
I am doing the A-Z challenge; today’s letter is K for Kitchen.
Kitchens are all the rage these days, with JT renovating hers, Casey adding on to his, and Annie decorating the “cutest kitchen in Willits.” I am even planning to add on to mine, in order to get ready for this summer’s push to provide gluten-free baked goods for Casey’s Community Sponsored Agriculture program.
I enjoy cooking; it’s a pastime I learned from my father, not because he took me aside and taught me, but more because I found myself conscripted as a child to peel the potatoes, dice the onions and bell peppers, or peel and slice the carrots. I think the process of osmosis came into play, and I absorbed much of what I was introduced to. I remember my father dipping a tablespoon into the stew, or soup, or chowder and lifting it up in the direction of Sunrize (sic) Market, and intoning “To the North,” [about-facing] “and to the South,” [90 degrees to the right] “to the East,” [about-facing] “and to the West, and to all the gods of the universe...” His statement might take any of a dozen different directions, at this point, as he acknowledged those entities that applied on that specific occasion. By the time he was done, the sampler would be cool and he would indulge. “More salt,” he would opine, and life would proceed forth.
People who enjoy cooking take pleasure in one of the most fundamental of life’s necessities. I live on a mountain, and have done so for the past thirty-one years, making trips to the local fast-food eatery not only impractical, but undesirable. That’s not to say I do not enjoy eating out with Annie, on one of our many sojourns down to Ukiah, Santa Rosa, or to the City. I enjoy these meals immensely. I go into a restaurant with a huge smile on my face, expecting not only quality food, but excellent service. I am never disappointed.
So I understand why folks take the steps to improve the place where so much creativity takes place. JT wants a brighter kitchen; Annie wants a carefully-decorated kitchen; Casey wants a bigger kitchen, to make room for the new cabinets, for which Amber has been saving. I don’t really need a bigger or better kitchen, but Annie wants the one in which we will be working next spring/summer, to be removed from the part of the house in which the dogs roam, or the dust settles. (When you live just off a dirt road, dust is an inevitable reality.)
Coming back from Ukiah, the other day. we stopped at a little shop featuring new and used items, and the first thing we both focused on, in the window, was a pair of ceramic canisters, with the cherry motif. Reasonably priced, we snagged them within the first five minutes we were in the shop. It was a small thing, but it made Annie’s day.
I love cooking with Annie, not only for the shared experience, but for the things she can teach me. I am endeavoring to modify my diet to better eat right for my blood type. A-negative blood types would do best to eat vegetarian, which explains why so much of my life, I have followed this pattern, way before I ever heard of Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo, who wrote so much on the subject. I have always struggled to digest red meat, so for the vast majority of my life, I have avoided it.
Fish is far better for me, so the other night, when Annie and I were preparing our dinner of artichokes, salad and salmon, I was all eyes and ears. Taking a six-ounce salmon filet, Annie put a small tab of butter on top of it, included some lemon thyme, dijon mustard, salt and pepper, wrapped it in foil, pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees, and baked it for fifteen minutes. It came out so moist and tender, I thought I’d died and gone to culinary heaven.
There are also countless techniques for improving the taste of the most basic of dishes. I have always enjoyed doing the dicing of the accompaniments to pasta sauce, including the herbs from the garden, but I never paid that close attention to the finer points, such as the addition of red wine, early on in the process. I certainly knew it was included, but always figured it was just a glug, or at most, a glug-glug. The other night I brought a glass into the living room, with the intent that she should show me how much to add. She said she couldn’t tell me; she had to show me. Wonderingly, I followed her back out to the kitchen and watched her upend that container of cooking wine and let it flow!
Really? THAT much? We’ll be staggering after this meal, I thought to myself. However, as the sauce bubbled merrily on the stove top, and I inhaled the fragrance of the simmering sauce, any doubts I had dissipated, at the same rate as the alcohol in the sauce. It was the best I had ever tasted, and I knew it was because I had been shown one of the inner secrets of the kitchen.
What can I say? Teach me more, Annie, teach me more!