“When you cook, there is a great deal of love. You cannot cook indifferently. You have to give a lot of yourself. Cooking is the purest act of love, whether it’s for your kid or your grandmother or your lover or your wife. It’s always to give.” (Jacques Pepin/Artnet)
The older I get, the more I look back. A lot of those memories are food-related. Sometimes the memory flood is overwhelming. From simple pleasures to fabulous home-cooked feasts. Food is what we have to comfort us, especially since the cooler to cold weather sets in. Food is sensual, satisfying all six senses- sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing, and umami.
I remember the summer barbecues. My dad grilling lemon garlic chicken or ribs. Sometimes there were hot dogs or burgers. My mother made potato salad. On hot humid days or two later, that cold leftover potato salad was a meal.
Sometimes, my dad and I would sit at the table with Italian cured meats, cheese, olives, homemade bread from a neighbor, and wine. We would sit and talk. Two men, one aging and one younger adult. He would talk about the past. I would talk about the present.
Food was always part of my life. I grew up in a food-loving family. My parents loved to cook, and that love showed in their craft. Even a simple pot of chicken soup was made with love. Holidays were special. They pulled out all the stops. There was enough food to feed an army.
I think about all the holiday dinners I prepared or helped prepare. A month before, I would scour the food magazines looking for recipes. There was the calvados, cider, and apple pork roast, the leg of lamb wet rub marinated with pesto, the varnished turkey, geese one Christmas, plum duck, ginger ham, stuffed trout, and the various side dishes to go with them.
Fall is when I really think about food, past and present. Fall through winter is the time for comfort foods. Foods that mend your heart and heal your soul. Foods that take you away from the junkyard world we live in. Meals to enjoy alone or in the company of others.
Our lives are complicated. We get too wrapped up in all the political, cultural, and social rhetorical wars swirling around us. We forget the simple pleasures of life, food, wine, and companionship of family and friends.
The pandemic brought out the best of us in relation to food. People were home with too much time on their hands. First it was the bread bakers, then sourdough took over. All of a sudden social media was flooded with home-cooked dishes. People discovered what that strange place in their homes, the kitchen, was for.
Fall is here and winter is around the corner. The brutal hawk, the cold Chicago wind that chills your heart and soul, is hunting. The days are shorter. Soon, sunny days will be few and far between. I think about food, comfort food. As much as I love to eat out, I love to cook or eat someone else’s home cooking. I no longer like cooking for myself. I prefer to cook for and share the meals with others.
Now that many of you found uses for your kitchens, scrap the delivery or carryout. Stay home and cook. Cook for yourself, your family, and friends. Cooking and sharing food is one of the purest forms of love. Cook the simple comforting foods, soups, stews, meat loafs, chili, or roast chicken. There are plenty of places to get the few other necessities, like good bread or other food items.
Go into the kitchen, turn on your favorite music, and forget the outside world, the junkyard world we live in. Cook for yourself. Cook for family or friends. Keep it simple and comforting. Share the love.
I ate in some of the finest restaurants in Chicago. I enjoyed the food. But nothing ever beats a simple, comforting home-cooked meal made with love and shared with others.
Cooking should be treated as a survival skill. Everyone should be able to cook for themselves, families, and friends. It is not hard. You do not need a lot of equipment. All you need are recipes and the literacy to follow them.
Winter is upon us. Get in the kitchen and cook. Even if you screw up, you can still eat your mistakes and learn. Oh yeah, do not forget dessert.