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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

 

 

 

First, you must weigh everything.

Precisely. The butter. The water.

The sugar, the salt. You must

catch the mixture just as it boils,

then add the flour, sifted and weighed.

You must set the timer to dry the dough,

must add the eggs slowly, must not

let it be too dry, too wet.

There’s more, my friends. The angle

of the pastry sleeve, must be 45 degrees.

You need to use the French star tip.

And then, you must not open the oven

lest the steam escapes and the eclairs

don’t crust. So many musts. So many dos.

And still they don’t always turn out.

 

It is not at all the way I love you. Though

sometimes I’ve tried to find the recipe.

Though sometimes I’ve wished it

were as easy as measuring well and using

a timer. I have wanted to do it right.

I have studiously wanted to make yours the best life.

 

But the only way to be a good lover

is to love. It has nothing to do

with following directions. Has

everything to do with the doing.

Like making choux pastry dough

together. Taking turns at the stove.

Reading the directions out loud to each other,

four times. And then watching the dough,

astonished as it goes from slimy to smooth

to something sturdy that shines.

 

 

 

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Simple Tools

 

 

 

for Christie

 

I am so grateful for the rubber spatula,

the way it sits quietly in the drawer

yet is always ready for action—

is game to scrape the walls of the blender

or to fold chocolate chips into cookie dough.

It evens and swirls the frosting on cake

and welcomes the tongue

of a child. In a sharp world,

it knows the value of being blunt;

it knows that to smooth is a gift to the world.

Some people are knives, and

I thank them. Me, I want to belong

to the order of spatulas—those

who blend, who mix, who co-mingle

dissimilars to create a cohesive whole.

I want to spread sweetness, to be a workhorse

for beauty, to stir things up,

to clean things out. I want to be useful,

an instrument of unity, a means, a lever for life.

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The white sauce whisked to smoothness

before the cheese is added,

and the elbow noodles boiled till they’re al dente,

 

the Pyrex buttered with long looping swirls of the fingers,

the cheddar spread evenly on top.

It is not easy for most people to see

 

devotion in the mac and cheese.

It doesn’t look like prayer.

But it’s there.

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We begin by talking for an hour

about the kids, her church, dad’s health,

and how we both cry when we see acts of goodness.

We clean the kitchen. Address one mess

before starting the next. Then we peel apples,

marvel at their size—how much larger

they must be than in the time of Fanny Farmer,

who thinks we might need eight tart apples

for our nine-inch crust. Fanny, even a hundred years later,

you are still synonymous with precision,

organization and good food. And, as I recall,

you, too, practiced your art in your mother’s kitchen.

As it is, seven apples in 2018 are enough

to fill two generous crusts. Oh Fanny,

some things have changed, for instance

this Granny Smith, large as my fist. But some things

are exactly the same. A level teaspoon

is still a level teaspoon. The simplest recipes

are still often the best. And it’s still so good

to make a pie with your mother, talking

about all of life’s loose ends, measuring sugar,

filling the crusts, then cleaning up the mess

as the scent of sweetness touches everything.

 

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They are so red, the peppers,
it is impossible not to admire them
before I put them on the grate
to char their skins and sweeten their flesh.

I think of all the other hands that touched
these fruits, and I thank them: whoever planted
the seed and watered the plant, whoever
weeded and hoed and broke the green stem.

I think of all the other women around the world
speaking languages I will never know who,
in these weeks of autumn, are also standing
beside a fire, turning the peppers to roast them evenly,

all of us breathing the same smoky scent.
All of us rolling up our sleeves as we prepare
to pull off the blackened skin. All of us relieved
when the seeds fall out easily. All morning the house

smells of sunshine and basil, red peppers and gratitude.
I think of all of us doing the work to feed the people
we love, our knives keeping time against wooden boards,
our hands sticky and red with devotion.

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Using the Last Bit of Red Onion Left by Rachel

Lost for weeks in the corner of the crisper drawer,
it appears just in time to save the carrot soup.

One large hunk of red onion, partially used, still good.
I get nostalgic, remembering how Rachel, gone for three weeks,

served it with eggs, and though I didn’t eat them
I remember how delicious the kitchen smelled then.

It is her hand that chose it, her hand that sliced the rings.
I laugh at my own nostalgia. But I miss her, the all of her,

the giggling on the couch with her, the singing in the car,
cayenne and hot chocolate late night, poems, wine.

And slicing the onion, thinking about how Rachel she is,
it is right somehow that I should start to cry.

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