For Cooks and the Wee Folk: Memories with (hopefully) a Point
I learned years ago that a meal involves more than the list of ingredients. In some unseen way, the spirit of the cook dances in the frying pan, swims in the saucepan, and turns somersaults in the wok. Like an enchantress stirring her cauldron, the cook invokes a spell that envelopes all who sip from her ladle. It's a powerful thing, this cooking and it has informed my life in many ways.
I cooked after the death of my mom and dad in my early twenties. By then I had learned to taste simmering soup and know just which spice would make it better. There was solace in the chopping and mixing and simmering. Before long, I cooked for my own family. With flour covering the counters and kids' faces, I helped tiny hands shape gingerbread people each December. I cooked for little ladies dressed in strands of their mother's pearls and floppy hats that fell over one eye. We baked lemon squares dusted with sugar and thumbprint cookies with chocolate kisses for afternoon tea parties. Years later, I escaped into the dough of homemade bread, kneading away the pain of my sister's death.
My daughter, Haley and I planted a faery garden when she was young, complete with all the herbs that faeries love and moms too. We picked, planted and thinned by the phases of the moon, but we cooked whenever we pleased. Our cooking directed the days of the week and the seasons of the year. Fridays were homemade pizzas with toppings all laid out so kids and their friends could pick their favorites. Summers were fish and veggies grilled outdoors and winters were soups and crusty bread dipped in herb-filled olive oil. Autumn was a family favorite and it meant chili a couple times a month and pumpkin bread might pop up for breakfast.
Cooking is a sacred activity, my own prayer sent into the cosmos with the power to bless or the power to curse. I must be careful. Kids are grown and gone and though it's often just two for dinner now, I also cook for all the meals that have come before...for the memories of tea parties and gingerbread people who ran away. I cook for a sister whom I dearly miss and the woman within who has a lifetime of beautiful memories and many meals yet to enjoy. Out of all the things that are no more, I still keep a faery garden. It has moved and been replanted many times since Haley and I created the first one along the banks of a pond and beside a Sycamore tree.
There is nothing more satisfying and convenient than walking a few steps out the kitchen door to pick whatever I need to flavor a meal. No packaging, no driving, no waste. At this time of early summer, it is newly cleared and somewhat respectable, but I like my herb garden best in July and August, when it is wild with growth, too much mint and thyme has spread in between the cracks of the stepping stones so my bare feet can pick up the fragrance. I step lightly and only the fae folk know of my comings and goings.