“How about spiced prune chutney?“
He makes that face, the pursed lips and fast shake of the head.
“Why not?” I ask. Sounds good to me. I’d eat that with great cheese.
“Hmmm…No.” At least he took a moment to think about it this time.
I love this banter, this back and forth. And besides, I really like discovering foods I have never eaten before.
“Zuni has a great recipe for spiced prunes,” I suggest.
He answers this one immediately. “Nope. No copying other recipes and altering them slightly. These are all ours.“
I backtrack, to explain. “Oh, I know. I agree. But I thought we could look at it for technique.“
The Chef agreed. Every chef is inspired by other chefs. We pore over the cookbooks we trust for little tweaks and reminders. (“Ahh, that’s right. We need ice-cold liquid with the ground pork when we make sausages.”) But he is adamant, and rightly so: these recipes are ours.
“You’re forgetting the fig chutney I served at the restaurant,” he said.
“What, you mean the one that fills the fig cookies? That recipe’s in the first book.”
“No,” he reminded me. “The one I make, with rosemary and red wine.”
“Oh god, I love that one. You’re right. That’s the one that should go in the book.“
He paused for a moment.
“Besides, I don’t like prunes.”
Well, that did it.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Little Bean is awake. She’s lifting her legs, rising onto her butt, and slamming down her legs, in glee, again. She doesn’t cry upon waking anymore, after a full night of sleep. Instead, she plays in her bassinet, moving and rolling, rising and thumping. When I do lean over her to say hello, she smiles so wide her face becomes a smear of smile. So does mine.
The Chef wakes up to feed her, and receives his own smiles. I drift back to sleep for a moment. And then the baby is in bed with us, looking up at the ceiling and smiling wide, as she moves from side
to side. We stare, transfixed.
But it doesn’t take more than a minute for the conversation to begin.
“What about tackling that cinnamon rolls recipe today?”
“Ooh, cinnamon rolls,” he says, his eyes widening.
“And we have to taste the sausages today.”
“I want to see how those pickled apples turned out.”
“Aren’t the white beans still braising on the back of the stove?”
And the entire time, we are looking at Little Bean, calling out these foods to her. Her eyes go wide. She stops to listen. And then she kicks up her heels and begins moving again.
Coffee and the paper. Throw in some reading of the cookbooks on the coffee table.
Little Bean, after we have held her and danced her around the living room (yesterday, her favorite song in the world was “Istanbul, Not Constantinople” by They Might Be Giants), falls asleep in her swing. We look at each other and move to the kitchen.
The Chef is chopping. I am mixing flours. The smells are rising.
Pike Place Market in the clear autumn sunlight. We stick cream and butter, milk and sugar in the basket beneath Little Bean’s stroller. Chanterelles at Sosio’s. A bag full of spices at World Spice, after sticking every one of them beneath Little Bean’s nose. She always kicks. Talking about what to do next, and what to have for lunch.
It’s 2 pm, and the Chef is not at the restaurant.
Little Bean is in her vibrating chair, looking up at us with wide eyes. She kicks and kicks, little coos emitting from her mouth. It’s late in the afternoon, and she’s far from fussy now. Both of her parents are with her, cooking and laughing, dancing in front of her from time to time. I pull the fresh vanilla bean from the bag and slowly wave it in front of her nose. She stops, and then starts to smile. The Chef laughs, his hands deep in the marinated pork he will be braising soon. Music wafts through the room.
We give her a bath together. She stares up at us with adoring eyes. She loves the warmth.
The same ritual, every night. Until this week, it was only me in the room with her. Now, we both speak in hushed voices in the small light of the room. Lotion and diaper, soft fleecy pajamas. White noise machine on. One book from each of us (perhaps Madeline or When the Sky is Like Lace), with the Chef acting each action out in exaggerated motions. He always makes me laugh. Lovely food, and then Goodnight Moon.
Music going. Simmering happening.
Do you think that sugar cookie dough is ready to roll out?
What kind of peppers are you going to use in the tomatillo chutney?
Let’s be sure to get to the farmers’ market early tomorrow.
How much molasses did you put in there?
He’s cooking, dancing in front of the stove. I’m writing everything down.
Hell, we even do the dishes now. For the first time since the baby was born, the kitchen is clean before we snap off the light.
We’re on the couch, wonderfully fed, by the food, and the day. Four more recipes done. Three, he loves. One, he needs to do again before he likes it at all. What would the fun be in four perfect recipes?
We hold each other as we watch Jon Stewart. I feel the laughter pushing his belly up. My eyes droop at the end of the show. Little Bean will be up in six hours. We really should be in bed.
“What are we going to cook tomorrow?”
We fall asleep talking about food.
p.s. We are keeping a set of photographs on Flickr called Working on the Book. If you want to see more of the process, go here. And kudos to anyone who has figured out what the Chef is playing with in the top photograph.
We are, of course, eating well around here. We’re doing it all for you. We want our cookbook, and its 100 recipes, to be stellar, every recipe tested, every dish gorgeous. We have to eat it first.
But sometimes, it doesn’t have to be complicated. On Monday morning, the Chef made us breakfast. We both felt so indolent. We didn’t have to rush to be anywhere. Our muscles had started to relax.
He emerged from the kitchen with roasted potatoes, melted Drunken Goat cheese, eggs over easy, and this little flourish on top.
“What’s that?” I asked, excited.
It took him all of a few moments. I never would have thought to do it. But it made the meal so much more alive. Monday morning, every morning — it takes only a few moments to make us feel civilized.
6 prosciutto slices
Lay the prosciutto slices on top of each other. Roll them into a tube (more pencil than fat marker).
Slice them thin, in a chiffonade.
Into a hot pan add a bit of oil until it is almost smoking. Add the prosciutto. Sautee for 30 seconds or so, until it crisps up.
Serve on top of eggs over easy. This could also garnish potato-leek soup, black beans, or a quinoa-shrimp salad.