Those of us who enjoy cooking are probably each drawn to it for different reasons. Artistry, beauty, creativity, nurturing…the list is undoubtedly a long one.
As I started prepping Christmas dinner a few days ago, several ideas and emotions floated to the surface of my mind, reminding me what I love about cooking. Above all, I love getting lost in it. I find that when I’m cooking I’m happy and completely worry-free. I kiss my dog more, I laugh more, and I sing more – well, at least when I’m alone.
But also, there are those memories, very precise vignettes, that come along as I prepare dishes attached to stories and/or people, and truly, what dish isn’t? For example, while skimming the fat and foam off of the top of the beef stock that will form the backbone for Saturday’s French onion soup, I saw the faces and heard the words of my precious French chefs at Le Cordon Bleu, from many years ago. The words were in French, of course, but they translated nicely in my mind at the moment. “One must not trouble the stock,” from one. “Don’t forget this is not a vegetable soup. Stock is mostly about bones,” from another. “Never salt, are you in love?,” from yet another sly one.
Similarly, all those months of making tarts for Tart Love (Sept., 2011, Gibbs Smith) brought me right back to my cherished mother-in-law Dori’s kitchen, or to the garden of my personal French queen of tarts, Simone Firtione.
Cooking is so wonderful that way. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. When my guests and I sit down to Christmas dinner on Saturday, I hope we’ll all forge new and delicious memories we can savor years from now, at the most pleasantly unexpected sips and stirs.
Here’s what will be on our table this year:
Miniature Bagels with Cream Cheese, Scottish Smoked Salmon, Red Onion & Capers
French Onion Soup
Artisinal Greens Mixed Salad with Fresh Pomegranates and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Roasted Hubbard Squash Puree
Cornmeal and Oyster Dressing
Roasted Organic Free Range Turkey with Pan Gravy
and, for the first time: Persimmon Tart with Coconut Ice Cream
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and of course, Happy Cooking!