I was raised by two feminists so the idea that I belong in the kitchen...well, that's a part I've chosen for myself. Living in a house of men, it's easy to slip into the role of wife. Everybody's wife. Oh please don't say Mom even though I KNOW you're thinking it.
One roommate will come home with fresh harvested clams and gapers so I make fritters. We are big fans of bivalve mollusks here and not just because they spark debates like this, "Vagina or Penis? Dude, it's so obviously a vagina or has it been THAT long?" Another will throw an armload of sandy, stinky palm seaweed on the counter, so I begin to stir-fry. And yet another will land a ling cod while fishing off the nearby rocks of Yaquina Head. Dinner is served. Yes, I've turned into "Ma" from Little House on the Prairie. Tree House by the Sea?
Gaper meat before it's beaten with a baseball bat and softened.
Truth is...I like being a wife. Nine of the 10 years I was married to the Surgeon were pretty great. The 10th year sucked dick. And the protracted legal battle called Divorce was the end of my gastro-intestinal system as we know it. But still, I like feeding men. And when they're young and handsome and oh-so appreciative, that's even better.
Still, I think my parents would be a bit disappointed. For a man who came of age in the 50s, my father was remarkably enlightened. Back before Title 9 was widely recognized or even enforced there was Pops, President of the New Mexico Board of Education. When a girl from Roswell was denied a spot on the boy's golf team, she took her case to Santa Fe for a full hearing. The board was split, four members agreed she should play with the boys, four voted No Way Jose. The decision was up the president. He issued a one sentence statement: "Girls desire fair play and competition as much as boys, so to deny them an earned place on the team is not only illegal, it's immoral."
And that was the beginning of Nancy Lopez' illustrious career. Pops never told me that story. She did. When I was living in New York and working for Golf Digest. It was part of her speech when she was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
As for Mom, she can only be described as The Original Ball-Buster. OBB ran a tight ship at work as well as at home. As an advocate of top-notch, accessible health care regardless of ability to pay, she wasn't always popular among the 250 doctors, nurses and support staff she ruled over up until her recent retirement. When she fired an Orthopedic Surgeon for failing to work up to her standard, he snapped, pulled out a handgun and threatened to shoot her. In typical OBB fashion, she said, "Go ahead, asshole, make my day," then grabbed her purse and huffed out of the room, her three-inch heels clickety-clacking down the empty hallway. Later that night, over a dinner of Kraft spaghetti and meatballs, she shared these sketchy details. We all dropped our forks, mouths agape so she shrugged and added, "He didn't have the guts. I could tell."
So how do I explain the fact that I'd rather be in the kitchen cooking than pretty much any place else? That I cook when spoken to. At the drop of a hat. Round every corner. For no good reason. Yeah, I like the rituals of the kitchen, the discoveries, the chance to make something out of nothing. But mostly I like this: That moment when every one sits down at the table, inches forward in anticipation, inhales the good flavors in front of them and pauses, right before the dig-in. In that pause, that brilliant pause, each of us knows. Anything, everything is possible.