I stood barefoot at the kitchen island Monday eating pasta from a small, white bowl. It was a recipe I’d requested from the night before. We’ve avoided pasta and the like, existing on cold dinners and carry-out in an unspoken resistance to heating the kitchen, but crackers and pizza crusts were not satisfying my gluten gluttony and my husband agreed to boil and toil.
So I stood, the next day, enjoying again the snap of the peas and the bite of the pancetta, reading a hamburger recipe from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, which friends had made for us Saturday night. The hamburgers had achieved mythical status in my mind and I needed to know just how difficult they would be to prepare.
I flipped through Keller’s book, soaking up both knowledge and olive oil while gnawing left-over ciabatta. I breezed through searing and stock until I discovered the recipe I’d been looking for. Our host, the night of the dinner, had asked, “Do you really think it makes a difference to grind the meat yourself?” Well, yes, now I do.
It was a beautiful evening and we sat under white lights and fabric flag garland ironed and hung by their fourteen-year-old daughter. We had dined together just a week or so before and had come around to my interest in astrology. “You must have The Secret Language of Birthdays?” “What? I don’t. Do I need it? Are you mocking me?” “Yes, a little, and yes, you do.” So in a reverse sort of hostess gift, they gave it to me and we read aloud our profiles after dessert.
“Those born on this day are not overly concerned with petty details, choosing instead to focus on the broad line, the big show.”
And as I read Keller’s recipe I wondered if this is why I am not a good cook. Wondered if inherently I can’t attend to the pre-grind seasoning, to the careful not over-combining. Wondered if this is why it is unlikely that I will create a dish as elegant as Keller’s or rooms as elegant at Frances Elkins’s.
All images Mr. and Mrs. Kersey Coates Reed home, architecture David Adler, design Frances Elkins from Frances Elkins Interior Design by Stephen M. Salny.