Monday, December 21, 2009

The time.

Wildspitz grilled cheese
For a little while, I thought could slip back in here without mentioning that elephant in the corner. Despite my swelling schedule (due mainly to holiday commitments, the odd extra shift at work and a long list of friends passing through town, which happily resulted in many delicious coffees and lunches out and about), I doodled countless lists of ideas, recipes, thoughts on seasonal entertaining and general to-dos. I wanted to share them, but I felt stunted by limited amounts of time in the kitchen. I found myself forced to keep things simple. Instead of indulgent mornings spent cooking and reading, I turned oddly agrarian. I topped quick pots of oats with toasted pumpkin seeds and maple syrup. I wrestled with cravings for flapjacks and fried eggs. Cooking variations of beans and rice and braised greens seemed decadent. One night out, I ordered (and devoured) a bowl of oxtail chili. Chili!

Then a few weeks ago, on the first full day I've spent home in what felt like ages, I treated myself to something special. I walked down the block to my local wine shop, where I selected a 1998 Rhone Syrah -- a bit lean, but full of leather, spice and tannins -- then I marched into Bedford Cheese Shop and said to the guy, "I wanna make the best grilled cheese ever." He offered up little slivers of several types of cheese before I settled on Beeler Wildspitz Bio, an organic raw cow's milk cheese with a gulp of goat's milk. The flavor is intense, not unlike traditional Swiss cheeses but way funkier. I thought it would be perfect sliced onto Amy's seeded wheat bread, generously spread with the butter. With some collard greens and jazz, the night was a success.

But it was more that that, too. That night affirmed not just my joy of cooking, it reminded me of all the other magic: the actual meal itself, the people and places that help create it. I love chatting with the guy at the cheese shop, the girl at the market, or any number of my friends about what they're dreaming up in the kitchen. I seemed to have lost that in the daily hustle and bustle, and I'm sorry. To the friends who weren't afraid of the elephant, thank you.