Saturday, June 4, 2011

My husband is a kitchen witch

Food, in our house, is special.

This isn't just because we're all fat people who like to eat (which is no less true), but because it's something that sees a deal of care taken during preparation. Hubby is an accomplished cook; though he has no serious training in cooking, I'd go as far as calling him a chef. He obsesses over herbs, how much we have, how fresh they are. He knows his spices, and adds by smell or taste, often using recipes only as bases for what he turns into his own concoctions. Rarely does he follow something exactly; everything, for him, is simply a suggestion or a place to start. And everything he does is with a sort of odd concern and carefulness that most people would reserve for things like neurosurgery or microchip construction.

I always sort of mocked him, playfully, for the care he takes in scraping down the ceramic surface of the stove, for pre-arranging his spices, for putting a jade figurine he calls his kitchen goddess over the stove in every place we've lived. One year, for his birthday, I gave him a moleskin book with a plain round binding, full of 1/4" graph paper, that has become a well-worn book we teasingly call his bible. It lives in the kitchen, partially full of his writings on the gaming worlds in his head, and partially a sort of ritual manual of recipes he has created or found and tweaked - sauces, stir fry combinations, brownies, cakes, breads, meatballs, pancakes. It seems like an endless menagerie of things, but he knows where every recipe is located and what every pencil-scribble says, even when it's so well-worn and loved that I can't even begin to decipher the things he's jotted down. Some of it even seems to be stream of consciousness, a combination of ingredients that came to him one night in a dream and that needed so desperately to be put to paper lest time and fate drag those sweet (or sour) words away.

We called him a kitchen witch because it seemed fitting, because he has an apron and calls the kitchen his. He's always claimed that somehow food talks to him, and I'd believe it - the man can sense a burning pan before anyone else can smell it, he knows something's done even when there's time left on the clock, knows food needs to be turned. It's almost off-putting, when he jumps out of his seat and informs me, "The food's yelling at me." At first it was odd, but I've grown used to - even fond of - this quirk of his. He isn't kidding, it seems; he's never wrong, never off. If he says something needs to be done, it does. It never makes sense to me - I follow recipes, don't dare substitute, and follow prescribed cooking times to a T. I can't do what he can.

So while wandering online, I found an article on highlighting Kitchen Witchery, and with a delighted giggle I forward the link on to Hubby to read, sure that I was really doing no more than poking fun at him again (as he's a self-described agnostic with no real religious or spiritual leaning, other than an apparent belief in an afterlife and past lives - and mind you, there is nothing wrong with that!), but as he read it over he grew silent.

"You know," he mused aloud as he glanced back at me once he was finished, "the funny thing is, I do all of that."

For him, food and cooking are a spiritual journey in and of themselves.

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