The Table: Insatiable Appetite for Cooking
Welcome to the table, where I will contribute a semi-regular column about cooking and food and my insatiable addiction to both. Bound up in cooking is my creative outlet, my love language, an endless terrain to explore and connections to make the world over.
It has held a center piece in my life since the very beginning. My earliest memories are smells. Walking into my grandmother's house and being wrapped in the scent of lasagna, yeast rolls or minestrone soup. Waking up to the smell that forshadowed the question “you want cheesy or butter grits?”
I remember cooking dinner with my mother when me, my brother and sister were growing up. At that point it was not for a love of cooking, nor necessity or requirement by my mother, it was just something that was done. We all cooked dinner together. Best, and perhaps most important of all we would then sit down together. Us kids exhausted from school and sports, my parents from more than a full day of work and putting up with our shit, and we would eat and talk for what felt like hours. Every night.
This is not an exaggeration. If you have met my brother and sister you would know, we were never short on talkers, or things to talk about.
As this was my normal, I took the situation for granted, assumed everyone had the same nightly ritual. It wasn’t until college that I understood this wasn’t the case. There I heard foreign tales of takeout dinners, eating separately or in front of the TV. There I began my experimental journey with cooking. Like I said, before this it was just something that was done. I’m sure at times I had enjoyed it and at times it had been a chore, but now? Now I had to cook for myself. A small step on the never ending journey to adulthood.
I had to remember all the things I had been taught by my mother or had absorbed through osmosis in the helping process. This learning curve involved countless phone calls home while in the grocery store and in the kitchen. Who else do you call to find out what isle the bread crumbs are on, or what spices you need to make black beans. But navigating this learning curve was when I fell in love. It was deep, it was allconsuming, it was addictive, and it was so self-constructive.
During a semester in Spain the love became exotic and wild as I experienced new foods, new methods for making them, and the magic of quality, local ingredients. How can olive oil taste so good I could eat it by the spoonful? Why haven’t I always kept a cured pigs leg in my kitchen? Squid ink stained paella? Sure. Octopus? The best meat I have ever tried.
Later I was able to put this love to use. Working at a surf camp in Costa Rica I taught Yoga and cooked meals in exchange for room and board. Though the schedule was demanding, you could hardly call it “work.” I was able to live in the jungle — a short walk from the Pacific Ocean — and cook for people every day. It was a dream come true. Making the weekly trek to town for the market became my favorite part of the week. We were on a tight budget, which meant we grew all that we could, purchased almost exclusively whole ingredients and made everything we ate. We made bread, tortillas, peanut butter, granola, oat milk, fake meat, jams, pickles, hot sauce, bbq sauce, chutney, juices, syrups… it was constant creation.
And now? Now I hope to share this love with you, here at the Rumble Table. I will share with you all the things I know - and all the things I don’t - as we explore and learn together. I hope you will write to me with your feedback, ideas, recipes, or questions.
I hope this statement can serve simultaneously as a disclaimer for you and words of affirmation for me:
I am most myself in a kitchen. I am the truest version of myself when I am cooking. I am no chef, hardly even a cook, but those spaces in life where we feel the urge, the need to explore, grow and learn are the places we should lean into. I am elated when I think about having the rest of my life to cook, and to continue learning how to do it better.