When you see relatives infrequently enough, each meeting isn't just catching up, but reacquainting. You don't remember exactly who this vaguely familiar person is, and you don't know how they've changed. They may not. Years put a fog around people, which oddly makes it possible to see them clearly. Getting a first impression anew. You don't necessarily know those you live with, work with, see every day, but you no longer try to. You do; they've calcified to you. The air is particularly clear in San Francisco when the fog clears, the light painfully bright. (Look, I'm romanticizing a place I felt dull towards.)
We were in a bit more of a sheltered place--Oakland. "You're a good cook, right?" Am I? "I get stuck in ruts." "We all do." Remembering she's fifteen years older, her sociable persona younger. Matured past what she can express breezily to an uncle, an uncle's girlfriend, her father, a cousin. That's the flattering way I'd like to think of my cooking, too: It's evolved away from everything I cooked, to the point of hardly cooking anything. My repertoire diminished to nothing. Nice way to save yourself, but it's not cooking. No growth can happen without trying anything. What's growth but destruction? There's nothing I even want to eventually be rid of. Every dish is gross to imagine. What I do cook just mitigating disgust.
I know there's more than what I can imagine (bake-fried potatoes, sautéed zucchini and tomatoes, roast chicken legs, pizza, eggs and various oiliness, salad, pancakes), but I want newness to appear from nowhere otherwise it's not new. Perusing glossy cookbooks involves gusto and an ability to discern what might tantalize the palette enough to bother making, a talent shrewd shoppers possess, not me. Only writing this gives me the impression I even want to cook anything other than what I do. Otherwise don't mind eating whatever's around, or whatever fumes left of imagination hit when I slump into the supermarket. What's cheap and not too depressing.
Was once one of those recipe-mongers, devoured the Internet of recipes, salivated, filled my head with an ever-shifting list of what I wanted to cook. Recipes are shit, lowest form of culinary communication, do not tell the dish, give no sense of what's involved or what's appealing. Wrote a recipe for a friend two weeks ago. Wish I could show instead, not because I don't trust her or because my roast chicken is so great, but because it's all in the neurotic details, the mothering of it, what makes me irritably shoo away others' hands--they don't understand my baby. I pretend nonchalance in the kitchen to most people, but I'm murderous.
What I want is for a friend to proselytize to me, to reveal their beloved to me. I'd understand if nobody wanted to though--what they love I may well hate. Or, slowly, to love. It took a relationship with an avocado-lover to get me to like them, and then only really after the relationship ended, after there was no interest (in the derogatory sense of paranoid political philosophy) in liking avocados, eventually finding that a good avocado is something to search for.
More often, though, what I cook is defined by what I no longer cook. Thin amnesiac practice of a few dishes supposedly embodying years of learning. It's not me, just some things I cook, honest. What I can't imagine my way out of now. In "Justified", the central character's defining thing is his hat. "Why the hat?" "Honestly? I tried it on and it fit." A lie. The rhetorical recourse to pure practicality or happenstance that's a blushing cop-out. Ego cutting its losses: No, I was not here. I am not here at all. I am somewhere else, expanding to the infinitude of the withheld.