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My Kitchen Companions

(post, Jean Henrich)

That familiar rite of spring is back: Standing over the sink washing fresh greens. It's like bringing out the Christmas piano music for the first time after a year's break - strange and new, yet happily familiar at the same time. You haven't forgotten the skill, just need to tap into the memory stored in your fingertips. A little practice, and the rustiness is gone. Of course, washing greens takes no great skill, only time and visual attention. More than with most kitchen tasks, the mind is pretty much free to wander or focus on something else.

Which brings me to my kitchen companions. Tonight, it was "This American Life" on WBEZ, a perfect radio show for washing greens, with its compelling stories spooled out over a leisurely hour. This time it was a touching story of a Samoan adoption gone awry. Many times, Terry Gross will join us during dinner prep or clean up - calling up "Fresh Air" on is sure to score an entertaining interview of just the right length.

But the day I discovered that the Chicago Public Library offered downloadable media really changed things in the kitchen. Books to me are like chocolate to others - I can never get enough. I scroll through the lists of available titles on-line and try to choose ones that will make good listening while chopping onions or scrubbing pans. I've journeyed through the lives of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Sidney Poitier and solved a Margaret Truman mystery. Together, my husband and I have joined Barbara Kingsolver on her year of living local and Michael Pollan on his quest to understand a plant's point of view. It may take a while to finish a book this way, but there's no rush. The books expire and we renew them, as with any library system.

My kitchen companions don't get offended when I must tune them out or turn them off to check my recipe, measure ingredients or finish a dish. They will still be there when I'm freed up to give my attention to them once more. They are the perfect cooking complement.