cooking that first omelette

When I was growing up, my mom was a decent but uninspired cook. We had certain meals on certain nights every week. Ie. Thursday was TV dinner night because Dad had Rotary club. Wednesdays, fried chicken, on the weekends, Sunday was always something like pot roast or leg of lamb.

My grandmother was of the Victorian era and was a much better cook than my mother. She retained all her German family recipes in her head. Every year at Christmas and Easter, she would bring out her enormous mixing bowl to create Knapfkuechen, a dry German breakfast cake topped with melted butter and granulated sugar. She, like many a grandma who came from another country, made enough of this delicacy for all the relatives.  One year as I grew out of childhood and into adolescence someone suggested I ask her to dictate the recipe to me. This proved to be fodder for many family jokes on through future years. There were many versions. Since she cooked from the gut, to speak, when I asked her for a measurement or measuring device, she’d vaguely gesture toward a coffee cup and mumble soemthing about a “few of those.” One recipe had 18 packages of yeast but only a pinch of sugar in it. Over time, I was able to figure out what was supposed to go into the ingredients. One of my favorite childhood memories, is of the cold outdoor kitchen at her house and the battered green table covered with cakes of all shapes and sizes, each draped with a damp towel as they awaited pick up and distribution.

Getting back to pot roast, my grandmother’s made-from-the-heart gravy over succulent roast crumbling in juice was, in my father’s opinion, as close to heaven as you could get.

Meanwhile, my mom cooked along, scared of trying new recipes, afraid of using recipes from the newspaper because what if they left out a crucial ingredient? After my father, and then her second husband died, my mother married for the third and final time.  Somewhere in years we were incommunicado, her new husband encouraged her to take courses in the evening offerings at a community college nearby. She chose cooking.  When we reconnected, the first few times I sat at her table, I was stunned at the variety, complexity, and savory tastes of the dishes being created by my mom. One of fthe first was a cold summer salad that had couscous and cucumber in it. Yesterday she made us delicious BLTs on thick whole grain bread for lunch, using her special microwave technique to do the bacon. A few years ago I had the opportunity to stay with her for 6 weeks. Inevitably I had to ask her how she learned to cook so well. Because when it came time to prep, she had four or five cookbooks comparing the same recipe in each, she’d have made her daily trip to the market for ingredients, and truly, watching her saute and bake was alot like watching a master artist create.

When I married in 1987, I was lucky enough to marry a man who loved to cook. Even more, he auctioned off 6 course French dinners on PBS’s local TelAucs back in the early days of what we called “channel 24”. So when our courtship began in earnest, his first visit to my apartment brought him with several eggs in one pocket, a container of cream in another, as he respected without comment the empty state of my student fridge. From these humble ingredients came the most spectacular suuculent omelette I ‘d ever eaten. So began our cooking adventures. He taught me everything from potatoes Dauphinois, to beef Wellington beginning with the scratch puff pastry with butter, flour and icecubes, to quiches of all sorts, sauce melba drizzled over ice cream, tournadoes Rossini, breads, soups and sauces. One particular winter we began a stock in a large basement fireplace and for 48 hours, kept the fire stoked until we ended up with tiny bags of what he called “brown gold” demiglace sauce to be parsed out as carefully as a miser would his pence. In future years, I began to explore Asian cuisines from all cultures, Hispanic as well and he always enthusaistically supported me.

In 2007, we went out separate ways.  Eventually I was in a  serious relationship with a woman from a nearby town. Since I worked from home, I  did most of our cooking. She was ever enthusiastic to arrive home to the savory fragrances and anticipation of whatever herbs had been combined to make that night’s supper.

Then we parted. For the subsequent four years I lived with someone who was a self-described “meat and potatoes” lover of bland food. One by one my favorite recipes whether salmon cooked in soy sauce, brown sugar, lemon and dill butter or home baked bread to home-made and home-grown spaghettis sauces with my own garden of herbs  fell by the wayside as the sight of someone fastidiously picking through a plate of food to remove anything unwelcome took away the heart and soul of my desire to express myself artisitically in the kitchen.

In truth across the board my life became so regimented and stifled that it is a wonderment to me that I was able to make any art at all during these years.

Now I live  happily by myself,  contentedly peaceful with myself, my dog and my cat. Doing my own grocery shopping the first time was a bit confusing as I had overlapping memories of a master list shopping with my husband mixed with memories of walking the aisles of a local chain grocery next to her cart as she disagreed with any ingredient I said I liked and I relinquished everything to do with food to her. I had no longer any realistic idea of what a food budget might entail nor what I might serve myself for dinner.

Among my first purchases were a carton of eggs, a bag of spinach, a bag of onions, and a block of Swiss cheese. Friends gave me a wonderful housewarming with a set of Oneida pots and pans and a tote full of herbs and spices along with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as gifts.

I came home from somewhere, art class probably one midday really hungry, and into my head popped the idea of making an omelette, that pivotal dish in my own cooking career. I did not use a recipe. I like to cook from the gut, too. I shredded Swiss cheese into the bubbly fluffy egg mixture seasoned already with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and onion. I wilted a handful of the superfood,spinach leaves onto the shiny surface, folded it over and let it heat through. Then I slid it out of the pan, onto a plate and a piece of whole grain bread. I was so stunned when I looked at the table, I grabbed my camera and snapped a shot of my first omelette in, oh, say, 20 years. I imagine Phillip was smiling in heaven, wherever that might be, as I ate the delicious art I had just created from the memory of cooking with love with a master chef who loved me.

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One Response to “cooking that first omelette”

  1. clover58 Says:

    Things evolve. “To everything there is a season.” I think you’ve evolved into your!

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