Updated: Jan 6
You are with them all the time. It starts out as a simple swap of favors because we all need a favor in the kitchen. Every cook has their list. The clock does the task mastering for the restaurant owner. The head chef is flying around here and there, tasting this and critiquing that, bawling out some feckless greenie. The chef-owner lords over his shop and works seventeen hours a day, relying on the journeymen and forming his apprentices. It’s a profession that conjures memories of the guilds.
Talk accompanies the work around a big wooden table. Gossip, TV shows, problems. Cooks tell each other stories. I remember the one about the anorexic couple, if you can believe such a calamitous thing. (You don't hear very much about anorexic men, but they are out there.) These two agreed entirely with each other's desire to be ever thinner. Always dressed in black, they were already geometric lines from the side, and still, their refrigerator was plastered with pictures of runway models with BMIs half a point shy of inviting a good intravenous feeding.
The cooks, especially the plump ones, click their tongues in pity and lament with groans and head-shaking. Then the subject changes abruptly, and so pass the mornings and evenings before service.
Maybe you met your cook/lover at a party. They stand out, but only to one another, and two cooks are instant comrades. Two cooks in love. That’s a mating ritual to observe, like other magnificent species in the wild. The courtship is not long by nature, but it will focus on what cooks do every day. It seems absurd. Do architects build each other skyscrapers? No. Do tax accountants do each other’s taxes? I wouldn’t think so. Do doctors in love offer each other medical procedures? Certainly not.
But cooks cook, and the kitchen is their laboratory, where the language of tastes and aromas, textures and consistencies are learned. It’s an expression of pleasure and ingenuity. Cooks love each other with food. Not that they slather each other with it, but who hasn’t tried that at least once?
I don’t think there is anything as tender as when one cook offers another their favorite dish, made with the most exacting execution, or when the food is part of the private dialogue of seduction, a joke or a pointed question. Perhaps it's a smoky Beef Bulgogi with a fine Chilean Shiraz, followed by Nipples of Venus. Then they will sit down together and enjoy their creations in the rapturous spirit this sumptuousness is offered. Fleeting joy, like love itself.