It is an understatement to say this year, particularly this summer, has been stressful. My life has been turned on its head with family illness and virtually everything has taken a back seat to dealing with that.
I have had to cancel dinner gatherings, including the Julia Child dinner I mentioned in a previous post. I have declined invitations to others’ dinner parties. It’s been over a year since I have hosted a Tavolavila dinner.
I miss cooking.
Granted, I have been cooking a lot. But it’s the perfunctory sort of cooking—the kind whose mission is simply to have something nutritious on the table.
The other kind of cooking has been survival cooking for my mother—anything with high calories that won’t get her sick. For years she has suffered from a lack of appetite, but this summer it has become acute with her chemotherapy treatments. And I have gone through the desperate exercise of trying to entice her with flavorful tidbits that will get her weight back up—cream soups, french fries, fresh protein shakes, eggs in every format. It takes the wind out of your sails to cook for someone for whom nothing tastes appetizing.
But neither of those scenarios are what I mean when I say I miss cooking.
I miss going to farmers’ markets, and pouring over cookbooks for menu inspiration. I miss the meditative process of chopping, prepping, timing. I miss watching the clock as it ticks toward the hour when guests arrive. I miss creating an event and a dining experience, of the debate over whether to open yet another bottle of wine.
I’ve been in such a high state of alert for the last few months, just focusing on the crisis at hand, that I hadn’t thought much about cooking. But for my birthday last week I got a compilation of cookbooks by Elizabeth David. They’d been on my list for some time and I was thrilled to peruse it.
Then this weekend I came across this site for a cooking school in Burgundy, and the full longing came to bear. As I read this site, I am reminded of my dream second life—to run a similar type of school in our own California wine country.
But for now, I will concentrate on my current “second life,” one made up of oncology appointments, infusion centers, and emergency departments.