It was my domain…. It was a small, window gap of years between cheek pinching, close talker guest’s exclamations of, “ you’ve gotten so grown up!” to invalidating stares and “So….what are you doing with your life? No man?….” Before the whole family arrived…. with the creepy brother in law… the better-than-thou brother in law, and the insipid yet ever-present resentment from the rest of my siblings.
Beyond the surface tension congeniality…… I had the kitchen….
A long, bright white, marble and glass space I could claim as mine. As solace, as a way to give love and comfort to my parents and friends and guests. One of the few things they’d always regard me highly for… I could cook. Dad loved to challenge me, or ask what new things I wanted to make for dinners before the big day. It was always an enormous pot roast dinner the night before, and a big double-batch of chicken soup they'd freeze to serve guests after I went back to California. He was the other cook in the family. He loved to help, and it was always a swell of pride and love, and fun and togetherness, when he’d come to check on what was happening on the stove “Eyyyy Liis….. whatch’ya makin?” He’d peer into pots, lifting lids, inspecting trays and stealing tastes before I shooed his hands away. Then he’d pull out the knives to sharpen them. His special skill, and a quiet, but obvious pride. I loved watching this. He had obvious fun doing it, and it was a skill I admired. His barely there smile and the deftness with which he weilded those biggest blades. He was also a master carver. He made it look elegant and easy. It was teamwork we both loved.
Every year he’d offer me Cordon Bleu, and every year, I’d say no. Afraid that if I studied food as a business, I’d fall out of love with cooking, and sharing with others.