With Love from the Kitchen

With Love from the Kitchen

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Do you read cookbooks like they’re novels?  At the moment I’m curled up with Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home and have already teared up:

A good home should gather you up in its arms like a warm cashmere blanket, soothe your hurt feelings and prepare you to go back out into that big bad world tomorrow all ready to fight the dragons.

I can’t sleep.  The world seems full of too many dragons.  It’s not even 4 a.m. and I did the only thing I could…put a loaf of banana bread in the oven.

I spent part of last week in Minneapolis and was around the corner from where Mary threw up her hat for the opening sequence of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  I left the city for my new small town and got in last night, taking only two (long!) country roads home from the airport.  I passed by cows and horses, small ponds and groves of Georgia pines, before pulling into the driveway.  I was met with hugs and kisses, a cold drink, and Fisher’s wagging tail.

Fisher couldn’t sleep either and padded out to the kitchen to keep me company while I whipped up my favorite banana bread.  It’s the banana bread I started making in Georgia to take to neighbors, family and friends, all of whom I’ve been thinking a lot about this week.

I used the measuring spoons I got for high school graduation, a set I’ve carried alongside the battered red gingham covered New Basics Cookbook they came with. From San Diego to Seattle and back again. To Portland.  And now, Georgia.

I used the same measuring spoons to whip up one of the first recipes I learned how to make in the dark galley kitchen of my Seattle apartment–a dutch baby pancake.  I was both angst ridden and elated to live on my own.  To be able to take a little butter, milk, flour and sugar and come up with something not only delicious but impressive seemed like a secret to adulthood had been unlocked.

In San Diego we started a Sunday Night Dinner Club.  There were about 10 of us who all liked to cook and wanted to push our culinary boundaries.  So we’d rotate houses, try new recipes and cook three course meals for each other.  There was wine.  A lot of wine.  I frequently wondered on Monday mornings why we hadn’t made it a Saturday Night Dinner Club.

In Portland cooking became simpler.  A slice of toasted baguette with a heavy smear of fresh pesto topped with a round of goat cheese.  Hearty soups.  A loaf of homemade bread.  Roast vegetables tossed with a raw mixture of tomatoes, garlic and basil the moment they come out of the oven.

The kitchen has always been the heart of the home.  And so this morning I measure and whisk.  I butter the pan and pour the batter.  Humble ingredients come together and make the house smell warm and sweet.  I may not know exactly how to slay those dragons just yet, but I have hope, measuring spoons and the sense of connection that comes from a warm loaf banana bread cooling on the counter.

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