Policy Wonk at Work, Artist in the Kitchen
I’ve been waiting and watching to take in this country’s reaction to our extreme ownership and near-religious worship of firearms. When I write to you about the issue, I want to focus on something deeper than the numbers and our historically embedded attitudes. I don’t want to repeat the same old tropes we’ve all heard before. So in place of prematurely publishing my thoughts, I’m offering you a contrast to politics and controversy – a spousal tale wrapped up in a recipe.
My husband and I are opposites in many ways – and this may be the same for you and your partner in life. I am spontaneous, generally disorganized, extremely visual, and hopelessly creative. It’s these flaws and/or blessings that keep me in love with writing and completely engaged with my passion for sculpting. My husband, Randall, is scheduled and organized, has attention to and retention for detail, and is comfy surrounded by what I would see as distracting chaos (notes on the floor, open books, piles of paper, etc.). He’s a mental health policy expert and widely regarded as an advocate and authority. He can recall legislation, landmark events, names, dates, bill numbers (ie. AB123), and other detailed information with Wikipedia accuracy. Me? Please don’t ask me for the Google phone number I’ve had for years because I can’t remember it.
We take these disparities into other parts of our lives. I’m the weekday cook – and, honestly, to call what I do ‘cooking’ might be stretching the meaning of the word. If I accidentally throw together something delish, it is not reproducible because the recipe is spontaneous – like fingerpainting when you’re a kid. Conversely, Randall cooks like a chef with attention to ingredients and method. With a culinary vision that leads to extraordinary results on the dinner table. He designs flavors, uses ingredients I’ve never heard of, and develops a step-by-step plan for success. He also makes one hell of a mess in the kitchen. If red sauce is involved, the whole room resembles a murder scene when he’s done. And then there’s his love of high-fire cooking which gives ingredients a smokey richness. The method also sets off smoke alarms and occasionally results in an actual fire which, thus far, has been confined to the stovetop or to the dish towel he uses to manipulate the pots on the stove.
Sometimes I sit at the island in our kitchen and work on some clay as he’s cooking. It’s fun to watch someone lost in their art – Randall buzzing around the room in his chef’s apron, a towel draped over his shoulder, cookbook open, and ingredients strewn across the countertops. He’s keenly focused on his creation, as I am on mine. He makes trips to our herb garden and brings in handfuls of carefully selected varieties to complement the dish. The kitchen takes on the fresh smell of thyme, oregano, rosemary on the vine. He carefully pulls leaves from fragile stems and crushes or dices according to his culinary vision. I take credit for planting the herb garden and making it look artistic. I cannot tell the difference between rosemary and thyme or basil and oregano. I once chopped up a weed and put it in a dish (okay, maybe more than once, but who’s counting).
Sitting there, listening to Spanish guitar streaming to the kitchen speaker, I feel as if I’m in a foreign film, one that will move from the stove, to the table and out to a cobbled street where Randall and I will Tango as a Mediterranean sun sinks into the sea. But that’s where my romantic brain goes and why I’m far too distractable to cook like he does. But it would be a beautiful ending to the story, right?
When the cooking, baking, searing, turning, and timing are done, the results on the dinner table are award-winning. I sit with my back to the stove, looking out at a patio, and beg Randall to remember the recipe and write it down. And, I know that behind me, there is another achievement. The stove and countertops and sink area are a disaster zone, as if a tiny tornado blew through, tipping pots and pans and splattering sauces from wall to counters to floor and out the window, which is open because of the potential for the kitchen fire.
But please, understand that I am not complaining. I am only reporting the results and facts as I see them. Most important throughout the spousal cooking event is that Randall, who for far more than 40 hours a week fights to improve and protect mental health care, gets to escape into his creative mind and make a deliciously good mess.
Here’s his most recent creation – memorable (as I indicated above) in so many ways. At home or in a restaurant, it’s one of the best shrimp dishes I’ve ever had (Randall thinks it would work with chicken as well). You, too, can make a delectably messy memory!
It’s been yet another week filled with news we’d rather not hear! Thanks for being with me to take a little detour – and for your emails. I love hearing from you. So many of you have shared your experiences, ideas, and advice. Send me your thought at firstname.lastname@example.org – let me know if you try my ‘chef’s’ masterpiece!
And 1000 Pardons! Last week I provided the wrong link to this month’s FREE BOOKS promotion. So, let’s try again – FREE eBook Mysteries for your summer suspense!