Saturday, February 2, 2008

Appreciation Makes the Cooking Worth All the Effort

If lonely J. Alfred Prufrock measured out his life in coffee spoons, for me, the measure has been in roasting, sautéing, and grilling, making meals for my family. As a parent, what your kids really think about you, is pretty much a mystery.

Today is my birthday and my sons, Frank (23) and Michael (17), decided I didn't need another pot or a kitchen gadget, because I pretty much have every kitchen tool imaginable. They decided instead to write me a memory about my cooking.

From Michael:
Every Thursday night when I was younger, doing homework, I would wait in my room for my dad to come home. He would bring home a whole chicken that he would marinate with rosemary and olive oil. My brother and I could tell when he put the chicken into the oven, because it made the whole house smell amazing.

When the chicken was finally cooked, my dad called all of us into the dining room. The table was covered with the finest dishes: roasted potatoes, flour-less chocolate cake, and, my favorite of all, the golden, baked rosemary chicken. I was always the first one in the room and the first one to grab a piece of chicken from the dish. It was crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. The breast meat was my favorite, but I wasn't the only one in the family that loved it. Each member of the family had their favorite part. My mom loved the wings, my brother loved the legs and thighs and dad loved the dark meat.

From Franklin:
At an early age I was introduced to cooking. My father, when he wasn't working on a set or writing, was either in the garden or in the kitchen. I didn't realize it then, but cooking made him happy. It let him experiment and test the boundaries of his own creations. I was always there to fill my stomach with some of my favorites: roasted chicken, grilled carrots, banana bread, roasted beets, and steamed artichokes. I could count on there being food in the fridge, and, with a little asking, dad would whip something tasty together in a heartbeat.

As much as I dreaded the start of another school year, it did mean one great thing: dad's homemade, signature lunches. Every day at school, I had a lunch that no one else had. Some days it was a bbq NY strip-steak sandwich, salad with homemade dressing, and sliced apples. Other days, it would be a roasted chicken with avocado sandwich, carrot sticks, and a piece of pound cake. With each lunch came a napkin, a plastic fork, and each item on the menu was individually wrapped in Saran Wrap or packaged in a deli pint container. In my eyes, my father had mastered the art of gourmet brown paper bag lunches and there wasn't anyone at school who didn't know it.

When I left for college at 17, I had my dad write me a recipe book of all my favorites, so I could impress my new friends as well as have a little taste of home away at school. Some of my favorites: NY Steak, Chicken with Dumplings, Chicken Soup with Vegetables, Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing. Today I'm 23 and still call my dad for recipes when I'm in a cooking jam. I always have some of his homemade salad dressing in the fridge, some pound cake in the freezer, and a few other of his latest creations that I'm dying to try.

In the next couple of days, I’ll write up the recipes for their favorite dishes. Right now, I just want to enjoy the realization that my cooking made a difference to them. I couldn't imagine a better gift.

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