I grew up cooking with Mom. Her meals were fresh, simple and healthy, and I cook many of those same dishes today. That spring, however, was different. I was 21, had just graduated from Colby College at the end of January, and was bored and lonely. A few months earlier I had gone to dinner at the home of some older friends, arriving early enough to enjoy a glass of wine with them in the kitchen. Leaving, I realized I had memorized the recipe for the pasta sauce they had served – rich, and trendy, with artichoke hearts, capers, portobello mushrooms and fresh basil. I went home and began cooking it for anyone who would eat it.
Now it’s March, I’m home, the spring season is beginning at my family’s garden center and I have Tuesday’s off. I think, “I’ll cook dinner and give Mom and Dad a break.” Week one is the pasta sauce. Week two is tacos. By week three I’m sitting down at 10AM with a cup of coffee and a stack of cookbooks. I head out around 1PM with the shopping list for a 5-6 dish menu. I visit 3-4 grocers and farm stands, buying strange new ingredients. Back home I cook through these overly ambitious menus, serving my exhausted parents around 9PM.
We would choose dishes depending on the menu, and gather flowers and greens from the yard to decorate the table. I discovered Billy Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra. I learned that wines had names and could be magically paired with food.
I’ve learned a lot since then. I still love (almost) every moment I spend in the kitchen. but that spring I jumped off the cliff, and I’ve never looked back.