Just give me a good cookbook.
I like food. I like thinking about food. I like to think about what I have eaten, what I am planning to eat, what I would like to eat and even what other people are eating.
Ah, let’s hear it for sensory memory. Recalling a favorite ingredient or succulent dish is not a cold mental exercise. It evokes the memory of fragrance, texture and taste. Even better: memories that marry good food and important relationships.
The best book on my kitchen shelf captures this combination between its checkered cover. Beverages like the simple Hot Chocolate that my children beg for as soon as the outside temperature dips below 90. Dinner favorites, like the homemade pizza crust upon which countless Family Pizza Nights have been built.
I began this collection when my husband and I were dating. It was nearing Christmas. I was a poor college student and wanted to give him a unique gift that cost approximately nothing. We occasionally enjoyed home-cooked meals together in his apartment so I decided to record the recipes for some of our favorites and include a brief note about something memorable associated with each dish.
One of the first entries was for the Chicken Provencal that my not-yet-husband made for me one night. I took a study break so that we could enjoy dinner together and I could watch one of his favorite movies for the first time. The romantic memory associated with this lovely dish?
“…We watched Spartacus while we ate. I won’t soon forget biting into a moist, tender piece of Chicken Provencal while Laurence Olivier’s character speared the Ethiopian.”
Yummy! We have yet to have that dish again. But it was a fun night and the memory is captured forever. (Which is more than I can say about one child’s first birthday party.) And if we ever go twenty-four months without watching Spartacus, I might try making Chicken Provencal myself.
There’s no snobbery in this cookbook, by the way. Among the homemade goodies are recipes for favorite treats, like a store-bought fried pie:
1 all-night convenient store
About 12:00 a.m., when you’re in the middle of an all-night study session, sneak down to the aforementioned store and buy a couple of fried pies. Optional garnish: one quart of chocolate milk.
Please, don’t worry. I have no plans to turn this into a recipe blog.
Whether it’s homemade chocolate mousse served in delicate dessert cups with orange-scented whipping cream, or a roll of refrigerated cookie dough and a couple of spoons, this cookbook is all about the foods we love and the unique (or mundane) occasions and private jokes that make the memory of eating them special.
(And please tell me what you’re having so that I can savor it too.)