She asked me: What. Did. You. Have. For. Dinner?
It’s. A. Problem. I said.
I hadn’t cooked much of anything in four months.
I’m. In. Relationship. Detox. I said. I was trying to be funny.
She persisted in writing to me about food. She referred to my takeout churassco chicken, my two-ingredient meals, my tuna melt, my toast with peanut butter – as a detox diet. She was trying to be funny.
People think, or hope, that they know you, through your words. I encounter this all the time. A flurry of intense fan letters may ensue: you feel flattered: known, and yet not known, too. It is an odd, yet distanced intimacy. Sometimes these connections transform into community, or even friendship. Even love. I don’t take them for granted, ever.
Sometimes, the food stories create uncanny understandings with strangers thousands of miles away.
Though I don’t really know her, she seemed to understand that cooking is part of the way I know, feel, and sense the world. Cooks cook. she said.
I cleaned up my kitchen. Went shopping for groceries. Invited a friend for dinner. My heart fluttered, my breath was uneven. A relatively simple recipe, but I felt so out of practice.
What did we have for dinner? Honey-almond-apricot chicken with couscous, grilled balsamic-orange asparagus on the side.
To detoxify: to remove the poison; to remove foreign and harmful substances; to promote the recovery of a person from an addictive drug; the process of eliminating the build-up of wastes and toxins from the body, often accomplished with fasting, or adhering to specific diets.
My strange simple diet, metaphor for healing.
I emailed her back: I. Guess. I’m. Cooking. Again.
Chicken With Honey and Almonds
[Adapted from Mediterranean Cook by Paul Gayler]
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tspn. finely chopped ginger root
A glug of olive oil
8 boneless chicken thighs
1 small can of chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp honey
1/2 tspn ground cinnamon
1 tspn ground cumin
8-10 dried apricots, sliced
a couple of handfuls of sliced blanched almonds
2 tsp sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Fry onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add spices, stir until absorbed. Add tomatoes, honey, apricots, salt and pepper. Place chicken thighs in roasting pan, pour sauce over top. Sprinkle with almonds and sesame. Cover and bake until chicken is cooked, about 1/2 hour to 45 mins.
Serve with rice or couscous. Sprinkle chopped cilantro over top if desired.