Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cook Until the Correct Internal Temperature is Reached or How Post- Partum Depression Helped Create a Chef

Cooking relaxes me. It is methodical, improves hand-eye coordination, uses math skills, teaches chemistry. It yields an immediate tangible result. And it so impresses people when they taste my work. They don't expect it of me to not only be able to cook (after all, there are cookbooks) but do it well and enjoy it. Enjoy the doing, that is. But I know that having the right equipment, cookbooks, ingredients makes it much easier to get a good result. As is knowing when and how to substitute or not.
My oldest loves to cook and wants to be a chef. Loves it. Has a real talent for it. She has the nose, tastebuds creativity, vision and courage to do great things in the kitchen. If she doesn't kill her nose and tastebuds with cigarettes and alcohol, she'll go far. She has that intangible, too. Star quality. People love watching her cook, listening to her talk about food. I can see her with her own show one day.... "Fusion Vegan" "Vegetarian Visions" "Breuklyn Heat"
I flatter myself that I had a hand in the creation of this wonderful person. Not just the obvious of being there at her conception and birth, giving her 23 chromosomes and an ancestry but more. That I gave her foundations and knowledge for her ambition and a hand in the creation of HER as a feeling, thinking, creating, strong person. Encouraged and am still encouraging her to achieve and be what she wants to be. To have courage where I have none to live the life she is destined to live. Not mine or her dad's. Hers.

I've cooked since I was a little kid. When I was about six, my mom decided she did not want to cook any longer. It brought her no pleasure and was one more thing that was not appreciated or even noticed by those around her. So she felt anyway. And she stopped. I opened cans, used the toaster, the stove top. And learned to feed myself in more ways than just the obvious.
My mom died when I was 27. When I had my first child four years later, I missed her. Natural feeling, to miss your own mother when you become one. I felt...lost. Clueless. Alone. Helpless. My world was turned topsy turvy. Forget about asking for help, I could not even formulate the question. Find someone to answer? Admit that I was totally inept, incompetent, unable to do something that women had always done, men too? And done naturally, effortlessly? There was nothing natural about it, not for me.

I thought I knew it all. I spent plenty of time with my friends' kids or at kid places. I liked being with them, taking them places. I read all the books and took the classes. How hard could it be? Boy, talk about clueless! The 24/7 responsibility of caring for this squalling, spasming, sucking five pound person who never slept? Never stopped crying? Never stopped needing? The books made it sound SOOOO easy. It was not easy. Not for me. It was... tragic.
I went from being a high powered executive, always on the go to being a downsized stay at home mom. There was no rug under my feet. No order. No quiet. How do I cope with this? How do I learn this? How do I fake it?
If I do things I know how to do, easy repetitious tasks, I'll be able to pass. They have to be interruptible too. Because every hour, every half hour, every quarter hour, she needed to be fed. Or changed. Or talked to. Or held. Okay, that was good, the holding. Holding her holding me. Laying on the sofa with her on top of me. Not thinking. Just feeling her heartbeat against mine. So good.
To calm myself, to bring a sense of order to my world, I cooked. Holding her in my left arm while my right hand measured or chopped or stirred. I'd prep it all for her and give her the cup or the piece of carrot. Say to her, "Throw it in the pot, sweets." "Pour it into the mixer, love." "Stir it. More. Yes, dear, like that." "Okay now, taste it." From when she was old enough to clasp, perhaps 3, 4 months, we cooked.
Soups. Pancakes. Cookies. Pies. Chocolate cake. Stews. Chicken marsala. Chili. Vegetable cutlets. Potato vindaloo. Sauteed stringbeans. Bread. Noodle kugel. If I could find a recipe for it, we cooked it.
We did this. And I slowly became a person again. Started to feel not quite so helpless. Even good. Now and then. What my little one and I made today! Come try it. My brother, my friends would stop by and we would feed them. They'd eat our creations while I sat there, topless, nursing my babe. Calm. Peaceful. For a few minutes out of the chaos, I was in control. And it felt good.
I like to think that influenced her. Our cooking together. We've never stopped. We still cook together. Now she instructs me. We talk about spices, compare rolling pins, flour sifting techniques, the melting point of apples and the smoke point of oils. I am so proud to have had a part in this.
And yes. I do cook with my other girls. Who knows?

1 comment:

zoesmomdebbie said...

You are a great mom and a delicious cook. I should know.