Saturday, September 13, 2014

Art Happens in the Kitchen, Too! 6WS

I was talking with friends over a cup of tea recently, one of them an artist I've collaborated with in art (rare experience to be able to do that, artists being such hellbent individualists) and in music, the other a friend in music, and the subject of cooking came up.

They both read my blogs, and noticed there's been a lot of attention to food and cooking recently.  They are not very interested in cooking, beyond what they have to do for family and self, it's more of a duty than a pleasure, I think, not an interest in itself, and it made me think about this a bit.

Years ago, when I was married to a picky husband who didn't grasp how much planning and sheer dogwork it takes to put meals on the table daily, I didn't like cooking all that much.  He always loved my curries, but I didn't want to cook Indian every single day, with all those little side dishes, and clarifying the butter and all that, and my other forays were not very well received.

Later in life, when we were together again, never separated for the last ten years of his life, he lost much physical ability, and his mental powers declined, so that food became more interesting to him, and he a much more appreciative audience for my home cooking, to the point of bragging about it to his medical attendants. 

And his years of living single in the meantime, learning the chain of activity needed to get his own food on the table, and teaching himself to cook, were a revelation to him.  

He developed specialties which he loved to feed to me -- we were lifelong friends, married or not, living totally separate lives or not -- and he began to grasp not only the interest of cooking for himself, but the sheer level of planning and searching and shopping and hauling and wiping and chopping and putting away work it takes just to get food into the kitchen in the first place. So all this worked in my favor in the end.

Back together I cooked from scratch all the time partly because of one of his disorders which made it dangerous for him to take on any additives in food of the sort which give it a long shelf life.  So I needed to know what was in the food we ate daily. I'd done this all the time we were married, too, which added to my annoyance when he didn't appreciate every single tiny bite I gave him!

And I developed a great interest in it, in his later years, baking bread from scratch, making really good soup, creating all kinds of new veggie ideas, interesting Italian foods, and finally came to understand the pleasure of working with food.  

There were challenges, too, since he had limited use of his hands, couldn't use a knife at all, and I figured out how to serve food that was grownup, didn't look like babyfood, but was easy to navigate with a fork.  And his sense of taste was very damaged by his medications, so texture was a big deal.  As was appearance.  And the sound of hot croutons hissing as they hit the soup right in the bowl at the table was a great appetizer.  Chefs have known this always -- hence that tableside hissing and crackling and the flaming Christmas pudding and cherries jubilee and hissing meat and all those sound effects.

Since art flourishes on limitations and boundaries, these were in fact a help rather than a pest.

One of the few activities Handsome Partner and I could do together in his last years was to watch cooking shows on PBS and choose recipes I could try in the next few days.  We really enjoyed that, and treasured the sharing across his total disability and my exhaustion, good to find a bond there.

Another artist had said to me years ago when I wasn't interested in her endless and knowledgeable food talk, oh, you're missing out on an artform!  and now I see that the smells and textures of food, quite aside from the pleasure of serving it and eating it, are really a value in my life. 

I don't expect everyone to go along, any more than everyone has to make art, though I do think everyone's entitled to make art of all kinds.  But it's a nice revelation to me to see how life changes are reflected in what goes on in my kitchen.

And good to see that Six Word Saturday has triggered some new thoughts, too, such as the header for this post!

3 comments:

mittens said...

very nice 6WS, Liz. I agree completely with the idea of food as a paean to all the senses--one thing I learned recently from a good friend was refrigerator soup, and it never comes out wrong. Easy, colorful, and the ultimate in recycling food.

and as you see, once you get the title, the rest of the 6WS just rolls down the page...

(you have, as they say, been assimilated...)

dogonart said...

Just finished putting up some Damson Plums (on sale $2 for 6 qts and couldn't resist). Spent time admiring the colours before cooking and lovely colour when finished and strained. Bit messy to do but worth the trouble. I sometimes buy things because I want to look at them, i.e. Eggplant which I don't particularly like to eat but which is a beautiful looking veg.
so, all in all, I agree with you.

Magpie's Mumblings said...

Perhaps I have the joy in cooking to look forward, but thus far it hasn't bitten me. It's an extreme chore for me to even so much as think about what to cook, much less do it. Fortunately DH loves the whole process and has passed that love on to both our sons. IF it were up to me I'd just alternate between grilled cheese and tuna sandwiches.