food. mom’s way of encouraging the family is to cook food in the old kitchen of the house. whenever the family encounters unbearable grief, mom steps into her old-fashioned kitchen. the men of the house. father, whom she loved but was sometimes difficult to understand, and her sons, who were growing into adults — whenever they disappointed her, she would go into the kitchen, her steps feeble. as she did when she was in shock, at the daughter lashing back at her, “you have no idea!” by the fuel hole of the furnace, or the shelf lined with upside-down bowls, inside the old-fashioned kitchen of that house, that was the only place where mom could endure the grief that has invaded her heart. and there she would regain her courage, as if the kitchen spirit had breathed a new energy into her. when she was delighted, when her heart ached, when someone left, or came back, mom made food, set the table, made the family sit down, and pushed the bowl, piled with food, in front of the one who was leaving or had returned. offering, endlessly, “have some more. try some of this. eat before it gets cold. have that, too.” (shin kyung-sook, the girl who wrote loneliness, 299)
sometimes, i joke that someone should marry me because i’d make a great wife (kinda), but that’s a joke only i’m allowed to make. (don’t conflate a woman’s love for cooking into something more than just that — a love for cooking. similarly, don’t put a woman down and call her a “bad” woman for not liking or not knowing how to cook.)
i say “kinda” because it’s really mostly because i love to cook for people — and not a general people-plural but my people — and i’d love cooking for my partner. there’s just something so satisfying about feeding someone you love, but, alas, i don’t have a partner yet (am not even close, sobs), so, these days, i cook for my parents, and i cook for friends.
sometimes, i also joke that it’s when i’ve come into your kitchen and cooked you a meal that we know we’ve become good friends. i have no idea how common this is with other people, but i tend to find myself cooking in friends’ kitchens often, from full-on meals to simple snacks to blue apron boxes, and it’s honestly one of my favorite things to do. it’s fun if we’re cooking together, but it’s also just as fun if i’m cooking and the friend is hanging out with a glass of wine — or even if said friend is busy with a deadline and had originally planned to cook me dinner but couldn’t get as much done during the afternoon as hoped.
as long as there is food to cook and share and eat with people i love, i’m happy.
and, so, it’s no surprise that i did some cooking while in san francisco last week, nothing fancy or elaborate, just simple, homey food with my best friend. these kitchen moments were some of my favorite moments from the week.
i like my omelettes plain, fluffy, and cheesy. i use two eggs, whisk them up with chopsticks in a bowl (or a mug or a clear glass), adding a splash of milk (never skim, never fat-free, sometimes cream, sometimes half-and-half) and a tiny pinch of salt, and i whisk it all together until the yolks and whites are broken, the milk combined, and the whole thing looks like it would produce a soft, fluffy omelette. (i don’t know how else to describe it.)
i use a non-stick pan, heat it on medium-high heat until it’s just hot enough that a pat of butter will hit the pan and immediately start to foam but not so hot that the butter will brown — you want a clean, yellow omelette. after i’ve spread the butter to coat the pan, i give my egg mixture one last quick whisk (in case it’s settled while buttering my pan) and pour it into the center, tilting the pan as necessary to spread the eggs in an even layer. i lower the heat slightly (again! clean, yellow omelette!) and smile at that satisfying sizzle of eggs meeting melted butter on a hot surface.
when the omelette has just barely started to set but still looks wet, i use two spatulas to fold a fourth of the omelette over itself, then do the same on the other end, before liberally dumping grated cheese down the middle and folding the omelette in half again. once the cheese has melted, which only takes a minute or so, the omelette is done. it should be eaten immediately.
something i do love about california is the easy access to tillamook cheese — and different kinds of tillamook cheese, at that. tillamook is harder to come by on the east coast, but it’s one of my favorite cheeses — clean flavors, nothing snooty or fancy, just good cheese that makes for great grilled cheese sandwiches, grits, omelettes, etcetera.
i’d say that part of it is also just nostalgia, though i don’t know what i’m nostalgic for when it comes to tillamook, given that i didn’t grow up eating much cheese and kraft singles were all you could find in my house growing up. (i still love kraft singles.) and, yet, somehow, tillamook taps into a part of my brain that finds it comforting and seeks it out because it associates it with warmth and comfort and familiarity, all emotional responses i want when it comes to cheese in general.
tillamook is also a great cheese to use when making cheez-its. which are totally worth it, by the way.
i am also obsessed with these turkey ricotta meatballs. they’re from julia turshen’s small victories, and not only are they fucking delicious (and don’t require eggs or breadcrumbs), but i also love the story behind them — that they were the first thing julia cooked for her wife, grace, that grace didn’t even have a pot in her apartment, so julia made the meatballs at her own apartment and brought a pot and ingredients for sauce and a box of pasta to cook for grace at her apartment. stories like these are what make food so special and one reason i cook — because food is all about story, and one of the things we do with food is share stories, rewrite bad stories, and create new ones together.