I'm a hardworking writer married to a natural cook who takes pleasure in serving up restaurant-quality meals every night of the week. He makes it easy and agreeable for me to forgo cooking and instead slip into the kitchen shortly before mealtime to keep him company while he adds the finishing touches.
Yet every once in a while...
It last happened about a year ago, after I saw Babette's Feast. In this great Danish film, the longtime cook for a pair of pious, life-denying sisters reveals her life-affirming culinary gift. I felt no hunger for Babette's turtle soup or quail in puff pastry, but her feast left me with a craving to make one of my own. And so I did--in partnership with my husband, John. Pumpkin soup topped with toasted seeds and whipped cream, boneless pork rolled in herbs, peppers stuffed with rice and tomato and savory flavors, a salad of fennel and oranges, mango cake, walnut pie--we did it all and more. The eleven people who dined on our feast were the most ever to gather around our dining table.
And that's what it's ultimately all about: people. Whether the urge strikes at Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Year's Eve, or on an otherwise unremarkable day, while cooking I think of the family and friends who will come together to enjoy the dishes I craft. I want them to be surprised and delighted, to take pleasure in one another's company, and to be nourished. Body and soul.
Painted in gold letters above the window in our dining room is a well-known Italian saying: A tavola non s'invecchia mai. At the table one never ages. I hope it is true, especially at our table.