I used to hang out with someone for whom (as for so many) food was a burden, or an afterthought, or a pandora’s box of issues. Initially, she would not allow me to feed her. Elaborately-cooked dishes went to waste. “I’ll just have some bread and cheese,” she’d say.
Eventually, she got onside, she wanted to. One weekend we even shopped and cooked together. We wandered along Queen St West, foraging for ingredients for lamb tajine. We found organic lamb in a cute little butcher shop, and found almost everything else at convenience stores. Raisins stood in for dried apricots, almonds were never to be found.
We went to her place and cooked, quite companionably. That tagine was delicious – spicy and sweet – all the more so because it tasted of affectionate compromise and good-humoured complicity. Cooking together – that was the secret.
It’s months since I’ve had people over for dinner, a week or two since I’ve cooked myself a decent meal, due to onerous deadlines and workload.
So the other night, I emailed The Diasporic Filmmaker: Let’s. Go. Out. The Bread-and-Cheese-Eater and I had parted ways, after a few months of dating. I was handling it fine, but still, something – maybe the memory of that spicy/sweet evening – ached inside me. Diasporic Filmmaker emailed me back, I’ll. Cook. For. You.
A magnificent chaos of smells and pots and scattered ingredients greeted me. We talked and gestured and drank wine and laughed as a magnificent mushroom-gorgonzola pasta was created. Let’s. Have. Salmon. Too. she said, and rubbed a smoky green pesto into a filet.
Like a runner in a relay race, I joined in, and seared and baked that salmon perfectly. I tossed the mixed greens salad with balsamic and olive oil.
We sat down and ate and talked, about our films, about sex and love and art. A chocolate hazelnut gateau I’d brought served as dessert.
Food marks the ways we meet one another, evokes trauma, engenders healing. Cooking together is intimate, a rare and meaningful conversation one can have with another.
Who do you cook with?