“I’d be way too intimidated to cook for you.” More than the note I still pay every month, more than the scars on my forearms, more than years of eighty hour weeks, more than the lost hours of youth-preserving sleep, more than anything, it is hearing these words that make me feel that having a restaurant just cost too damn much. For a world in which no one wants to cook for me is too bleak to contemplate. Such a statement is nonsense, for nothing makes me happier than other people’s real cooking. My life is filled with women who make amazing food. A tangle of warm, oily noodles, fragrant with herbs, enjoyed on the back porch on a warm summer night. Fried chicken, followed by ice cream with sticky butterscotch sauce and toasted pecans. Danish hotdogs (who knew?) with remoulade sauce and crunchy fried onion straws. Sweet and tart pickled beets and homemade bread and butter pickles. Just-harvested arugula leaves in a giant wooden bowl, their peppery bite mellowed by balsamic vinegar, good olive oil and crunchy flakes of sea salt. A plastic tub of mocha buttercream to just stick fingers in and lick. Or perhaps best, a sliver of Iberico ham fed to me like a baby bird with eyes closed. The deep joy of surrendering to another’s care and efforts to delight.
We’ve been “home” this week, visiting my godmother, my mother-in-law, and my mother and at each stop along the way, each of them has put delicious, soothing, interesting, nostalgic, innovative, and beautiful food in front of me. Chocolate cake, fresh East Texas pinto beans, homemade macaroni salad, cornbread with cheddar and dill, chicken fried in my grandmother’s iron Dutch oven, berries and mango cut up and set in front of me in the morning. This is the ultimate vacation–freedom from care, the giddy certainty that at least twice a day someone will feed me well. Please, cook for me.
Shaved Squash Salad
1 pound mixed summer squash, sliced very thin
1/4 c. basil leaves, coarsely torn
1 small red onion, sliced thin
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 c. olive oil
salt & pepper
1 Tbs. creme fraiche or sour cream
salt & pepper
1/4 c. sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 c. ricotta salata, grated
Combine squash, onions, and basil in a bowl. To make dressing, whisk lemon juice and creme fraiche in a small bowl. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking constantly, until emulsified. Toss squash with dressing, almonds and ricotta salata. Serve immediately.