Danny and I walked into the kitchen, ready to cook. A blue post-it note on the front door said, “We’re out walking the dog. Make yourselves at home.” We unpacked clarified butter, bags of fresh arugula, a carton of eggs, a bag of apples, the scone dough that needed to go into the freezer. Danny turned the dial to heat the oven to 425°. I found the knives. In only a few moments, this new space felt familiar, thanks to the kitchen rituals.
We were there to make brunch for someone’s birthday. Last year, a woman pledged for the brunch gift on our Kickstarter. She saved it all this time so she could surprise her beloved sister on her birthday. Michele walked into the kitchen to the smell of scones baking. She gave us all hugs, turned on the coffee pot, and thanked us again. The family gathered to talk, all flurries of happiness in anticipation at the surprise. Danny and I grinned and kept prepping. When Suzanne walked in the door and saw us in the kitchen, ready to feed her, she looked so surprised that I thought she might cry. All through the rest of the morning, she kept repeating, “I don’t think this is going to sink in until later today. You are really here, cooking for me.”
Early that morning, we had woken to a home still cluttered with toddler toys and books left open upside down on the floor. The coffee grinder had just broken, so Danny had to grind enough coffee beans in the blender to get us to those first hot cups. I was tired, hormonal tired, but also tired after a September full of promotion and new work projects. And I haven’t been writing. Danny needs to cook. I need to write. We’re weirdos. We know this. If we don’t organize our days so that he cooks and I write, the days slump onto our shoulders. I felt slumped, early Sunday morning.
The thought that anyone would be astounded to have us cooking for her never crossed my mind.
Suz and Michele, thank you for welcoming us into your home. You reminded us again how lucky we are.
What a strange and wonderful world this is, that I type stories here and so many of you read them. And so many of you have been reading for years and years, like that wonderful family we met. It is a constant, how we are a community together. Thank you for making us a part of your lives. Thank you for being in ours.
And Suz, since you told me how much you liked the posts when I offered up a list of links of things thave have made me think lately — this one is for you.
I adore Heidi Swanson and her kitchen, where I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time. This interview about her kitchen rituals is so lovely and calming. Also, if you don’t already have her new cookbook, Near and Far, I think you’ll love it.
Two years ago, on the last stop of our New England/New York research road trip for American Classics Reinvented, we spent a couple of days in the kitchen of Alana Chernila. Alana makes you feel welcome the first moment you see her. Her food is splendid but it’s the rituals of accepting imperfections and discovery while making food that really matter to her. And to me. We’ve been reading out of Alana’s new book, The Homemade Kitchen, for awhile now, and I think we will be cooking out of it for a long time to come.
If you’re dreaming of building your ideal kitchen, there’s no better place to shop than Food52’s Provisions. Everything there is beautiful and useful. I use a dough scraper in baking every day, and this one with a walnut handle seems like my kind of splurge. These small marble boards are perfect for making pie crust. Some day I’ll have all our food organized in beautiful glass containers. I’m crazy about Hedley and Bennett aprons. And someday, I hope, we’ll have dinner settings that look like this. (Those are all affiliate links with Food52, by the way. If you do love any of those, and buy some, we’ll get affiliate money for it. Maybe we can buy that dough scraper!)
These days, I’m thinking about making my own laundry detergent, bath salts, and household cleaners for the kitchen instead of buying them all at the store, thanks to The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving, and Natural Homekeeping. Erica Straus’s lovely book is gentle and encouraging, never nagging. It will make you want to look at your kitchen differently. (And her baked apples with caramel sauce were the inspiration for the apples we made for Suzanne’s birthday brunch.)
Our friend Aran Goyoaga is brilliant and kind, a master of light. She took some new head shots for us in her studio kitchen, which you’ll be seeing soon. (This site has been under secret revision for nearly a year and we’re ready to unveil it soon. New logo! Better recipe index!) She also shot the story I did for GFF magazine on gluten-free flours and our recipe for grain-free dinner rolls. That day, we ate some of this hazelnut and pear cake and fell in love with its humble sweetness.
Next week I’ll be in New York City, meeting people, doing interviews, attending the wedding of my dear friend Gabriel, and writing and writing and writing. Tuesday evening, I’ll be part of a panel of women I admire, talking about how to raise happy eaters in a time of food craziness at the 92nd Street Y. That’s a daily conversation in our kitchen. I’d love to see you there.
Finally, I would love this banner to hang in our kitchen. Yes, Cesar Chavez.