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Mia cucina odori dell'Italia

For me, a sense of home comes as much from the kitchen as it does from anything else. From the sense of the ingredients: what there is available, where they come from, they way they taste. From the tools, and the space, and the ease with which one can move from prep to a la minute cooking to plating, serving, and dining. Yes, I do have fantasties of a home in which the kitchen is key, is central, that the places for socializing and living are inextricably married to those in which food is prepared and eaten.

Adaptation is difficult.

The last time, it took a long while before I was truly comfortable in the new space. But once I was, I felt as if I blossomed in my cooking in a way that I hadn't before, despite the challenges of a small space. Sautees were practiced, loaves were baked repeatedly, and guests were served dishes that I was proud to have prepared. I feel an exceptional joy in preparing something to nourish another's body, as well as their senses, and (if I'm lucky enough), perhaps their soul.

Tools can be moved. Some of them, anyway. I still struggle with off-camber burners that warm and cool at a different pace than what I'm used to, but I'm compensating. But the ingredients. What do I have at hand? How do I best put it to use? That remains a challenge. And the sense of space that I work in: completely different. Where do I put the cutting board? The utensils are in which drawer? How far away is the sink from the stove when I need to drain pasta? More challenges.

And there are still other, more subtle, ineffable differences. What does the air smell like? What does the water taste like? Having to get used to these things is as difficult as trying to adapt to living with a complete stranger, one you've never met before, that has strange habits and customs.

And yet.

There are moments. Ones that spring from a place of Zen, of unconscious grace and simplicity. Tonight was one of those moments. I knew exactly what I wanted to eat, and I knew the sources. I knew which cabinet the pans were in. I knew what setting the burners needed to be at. I knew when each successive ingredient should be added or started to ensure that everything was ready at once.

It's not as if it were a particularly difficult dish (sauteed Italian sausage with red and green peppers, caramelized onions, and farfalle with tomato sauce), but the sense I had of it coming together under my hands made me want to do more cooking. And with the rain drumming on the roof, a loamy scent in the air, a couple glasses of syrah, and a dessert of (ironically) Oregon pears, I almost feel as if I might be in a place that I could get used to.

(Well, maybe in December, anyway.)




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