Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

redemption song

Posted: February 20th, 2008 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | No Comments »

Food can be a metaphor for life. When things are good, you want to go out for a nice meal. When things are bad, you want whatever your comfort food is. When people are sick, we make them soup. When they’re sad, I make them cookies, or give them chocolate. When you’re broke, you know you’re broke, because you’re surviving on ramen and pasta and not much else. When you’re afraid to cook, you eat wasabi peas and a block of cheese for dinner.

There’s a reason that when someone dies, people bring food by the house of the family. Most of the time, the family is too tired, too sad, to worn down to make food for themselves. People of a certain generation, generally the generation that grew up during WW2 and food rationing, see food as an ultimate gift, an ultimate show of care. Giving someone your food meant something to my grandmother’s peers. Maybe it’s skipped a generation, like knitting and charm bracelets, but to me, the highest form of comfort I can offer is food. That’s why the kinds of food I like to cook best are comforting, homey foods – meatloaf, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, soup. It makes me feel warm and safe to make these kinds of food, and it makes the people I’m cooking for feel warm and safe. Or so I like to tell myself.

I have a friend who has suffered a huge loss. Becoming an orphan at 26 is…. unfathomable for me. I haven’t even got the strength to think about it without crying, because I loved her mom in the relationship that we had… I can’t imagine living it. My biggest wish right now isn’t for the right thing to say or the right thing to do. My biggest wish is that I could bake a batch of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, and bring them home to her family. They’re gluten free …. at least half of the kids can get terribly sick if they eat wheat gluten.

When Pop died, all of Gie’s friends brought by something… lemon cake, or boysenberry squares, or a casserole or something. Nobody brought cookies, which is all we really wanted, because when we’re at our lowest, Drewniaks want cookies. We want chocolate chips. We want sugar and all the comfort that comes with that. I wonder how many of my friend’s mother’s friends will know that their family doesn’t do gluten…. one of my first concerns was that no one would bring them food. No one would bring them food that they could eat — I had to tell my mother on the phone that they’re gluten free, just in case she or my grandma had thought of bringing them food, so they had to have food made with rice flour, and possibly sweetened with honey or apple juice instead of sugar…. I’m not quite sure how sugar goes in the celiac world. I offered to test a recipe tomorrow, and send it to my mom with commentary, so she could bring them cookies or something from me…. I just don’t know how to reach out to my friend without being smothering, and I somehow think that if I send food… if I give my love and my comfort that way, it will be…. if not enough then definitely not too much. If I figure out a way to give her and her siblings chocolate chip cookies, or brownies or bread…. if I can do that, then I can stop feeling so helpless. I can start doing something pro-active, with steps and a process and if I do this, if I at least test the recipe for my mom, I can feel like I’m doing something to help. I’ll bring this friend baked goods until she screams at me to stop…. I’ll make her lasagne with rice pasta, and macaroni and cheese and every other damn thing I can thing of…. because at least then I’m showing what I can’t say adequately.

Food is love. It’s life. Even if I can’t adequately show my sadness for her…. even if there’s no way to convey that as much as my heart is breaking for myself, for my loss of her mother…. it’s breaking 3 billion times more for her, for her siblings, for the house that won’t be home anymore, for the loss and the pain and everything else…. even if I can’t show it, or say it, or convey it, I can nourish her. I can give her food, because I cook only out of love, and never out of necessity…. I didn’t cook for just myself when there was no one else to cook for, because I don’t love myself enough to spend this much energy on me. But for her, for my boyfriend, for others…. It’s one of the best ways I can show how much I love someone.

It’s life. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Good stuff.

Posted: February 11th, 2008 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | No Comments »

I didn’t mention this earlier, but a couple weeks ago, I taught my boyfriend about bread baking. We made a loaf of bread, and it was delicious, and even though I commandeered the production, I tried not to. I let him knead. I let him mix. Or at least, I tried….

I love teaching him how to bake, because it makes me think about our future… it makes me think about when we have the cafe, and it makes me think of him helping me get things off the ground… and helping and having this become ours instead of just my dream. I love it.

Since then, I’ve cooked copious amounts of food for Superbowl Sunday, only to see my first Superbowl party thwarted by watching my team lose…. Pizza bites and wings and dip and I did it all myself!!!

Last week, we made Panko-coated salmon and potato puree, with a pan sauce made out of Riesling and butter and pan juices. It was pretty lovely.

Tonight, I undertook meatloaf again. Personally, I have only good meatloaf experiences to think about. The first time I made it, I thought it was absolutely delicious, and was told by my roommate that it “wasn’t meatloaf”. I think that what she meant to say was that it wasn’t the kind of meatloaf that her mother made. And my friend from work told me that meatloaf doesn’t really taste like anything, it’s about the sauce that you put on it. I don’t really think that’s a good idea, because that means that all that her mother’s meatloaf was composed of was ground beef and possibly onions. Mine was delicious… ground beef and ground buffalo (I know, I know, bad bad bad but yummy!!!), sauteed mushrooms, diced shallots and garlic, panko, parmesan, Bisto, Worcestershire…. egg… bake.
To go with, I made gravy and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. They were nummy. It’s probably the only food I make that I really truly just…. love. It’s so good. I tried to let my boyfriend help this time, not because I don’t like him helping but because I cook mostly by feel, and I’m not analytical unless I’m baking… and since he’s a beginner cook, he needs description, and step by stepping… and sometimes I just cruise and feel bad that I left him sitting on the couch.
I work hard at trying to let my boyfriend help… I love cooking together because as much as I like to just cook for him when it’s a surprise, sometimes I feel like it’s more fun to cook if he’s cooking with me – if we’re cooking together, for each other. But it’s hard for me to slow it down and go step by step – I have to work on that. Because he wants to cook with me, and I want him to cook with me, so I need to make cooking something that we can do together… something that we can share. Because that’s my dream. Cooking together. being together. Sharing something that means so much to me, says so much about love and caring and everything…. that’s what I want.

I just have to let him learn.