Top | While my sautoir gently sweats — Blog

Food, Feasts, and Family

(post, John Dryzga)

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Where would we be if we did not cook for each other? This question is usually simmering on a back burner somewhere in my mind, but Pollan's article on the decline of home cooking and Michael Ruhlman's insightful response to it, made me move it to the front of the stove.

So many of my memories are of family gatherings. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner before sunrise so that we can eat at Grandma's at 11AM. The wonderful smell of the turkey thankfully winning the aroma war with Staten Island's Fresh Kill land fill as we sped along to Bayonne. Peeling pounds of potatoes and trimming pounds of string beans on Christmas Eve. The wonderfully chaotic mess of the blue claw feast the day of the annual family crabbing outing.

These are powerful images that encourage me, maybe even compel me, to cook for family and friends. People who do not cook will never have the pleasure of seeing loved ones faces en rapt in eating something they prepared. It may not be the best, or sometimes even edible, but the love of preparing the dish seasons it perfectly.

If I did not cook and if my father did not cook, I would have been robbed of one last good memory of him. My father was suffering with mesothelioma and had spent the lion's share of November 2001 in the hospital. He was well enough to come home two days before Thanksgiving. He was not strong enough to make the meal himself, so he set up court in his kitchen and directed me on how to prepare all the dishes we would be serving that day. If there ever was a Thanksgiving were we truly gave thanks, it was that one. Dad did not live to see Christmas that year.

I now cook Thanksgiving dinner without Dad's input. I cook it for how many, or how few come. I cook that meal, and every meal, knowing that cooking for people is an act of love. People who just microwave some pre-cooked meal or just order in all the time are missing out on a huge part of connecting with people. If you cook a stranger a meal, they are now longer a stranger.