For as long as I can remember, food has been intensely important to me. I guess that’s not very descriptive–isn’t food important to everyone? We all need it to live. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’ve always had an intense fascination–or preoccupation with food. Food engrosses me. Most of the key moments in my life–most of the memories–pictures, fragrances, smells–most of them have their foundation in food.
My first cooking memories involve me, at my aunt’s house, standing on a foot stool, bellied up to the stove, stirring scrambled eggs with a wooden spoon. I stayed with my aunt a lot growing up–as my mom and dad were either working, fighting, or splitting up. Nearly every weekend I stayed with her and during the summer, weeks at at time. My aunt was my person. She taught me how to swim, never spanked me, took me bowling and rollerskating, held me when I cried, gave me baths, let me play dress up with her clothes. There was never a raised voice, never a fight, never a fist, never an angry or sad person drinking away their feelings. The worst she did was try to sneak cigarettes into the swimming pool. And the lifeguards caught her every time.
And oh–those scrambled eggs. Well-seasoned cast-iron pan, wooden spoon, real butter. Eggs whisked in delicate pink depression bowls. Green foot stool. Green stove. Frilly apron that touched the tops of my bare feet as I stirred and stirred those eggs–watching them slowly coagulate, clump, form into creamy clusters. It was magical, watching those eggs transform from slime into sublime. Dozens upon dozens of eggs fed my stomach, fed my yearning, even at a young age, to be self-sufficient–fed my heart, as well. Mastering the scrambled egg, in the warmth of my aunt’s kitchen, as her enormous, curly haired Chesapeake Bay retriever bounded past, nearly knocking me off the foot stool–taught me that good food is simple, empowering, foundational. Is a safe-haven. Is love. My experiences with food from this point on would send me mixed messages–food is competition; food is a drug; food is community–but my earliest experiences laid a strong foundation– of eggs.