The ceramic cooktop is white – the color of purity – spattered and yellowing. These are memories, burnt in and smeared. And these burners hiss as they warm, smoke wafting off in gentle coils, whispering about passing failures and the effervescent warmth of promised growth. Showered in the coming daylight, this tiny space is an altar to both pain and to forgiveness. Maybe this is why I’m forever returning.
I am a waif. To say this in the past tense wouldn’t be wholly true, and I’m a big, big fan of wholesome. I’ve been told that to spill one’s pain is to act in an inhumane fashion. But I know that if I pent-up those times that life has deemed it necessary to smite me, I would be a liar. I’d be lying to you and to me and that does no one any good at all. Pain is in the pit of me, for better or worse.
I blossomed in a shaded acre of southern California. I was an adoptee, an import of rural Kentucky, and I grew up amongst the prettiest weeds you ever did see. Me and my foster siblings, them and me, we threw up a ruckus whenever we got the chance. It’s difficult to grow up with the firm understanding that you were unwanted, whatever the context of that abandonment may be. So we found understanding within one another, under shady pines, chasing sunned lizards and baking box cakes. And during the spicy summers of our youth, when we’d trek across the states to visit ‘grandmother’ in the stomach of post-antebellum culture, we’d find solace in slabs of chess pie and the acid-green bliss that was her Waldorf salad.
Supper time was our escapism. We’d snatch up the goods and go huddle under an abandoned tree, twittering like spring hens about the latest school gossip, the best movies we’d seen, those idiots who had broken our hearts (because we were, of course, blameless). Those dark clutches never reached us when we had good food in hand. Our sweetness was sometimes dissolved in punity, but we somehow found ways to come back, pilgrims foraging for lost hope.
But like the best and freshest of milk, times soured us all, and we broke apart like so many curds amongst the cream. My own yarn yellowed when I took off in pursuit of that purest of endeavors: love. Or, perhaps, I was fleeing into the night from some other monster: the jury is still out. And in the promise of hope everything dissolved into salt – mouthfuls of sorrow and guilt and grief. What once was lost was lost again, but the kitchen was still a window out from the dark, it made breathing bearable.
I remember subsisting off of fragile ribs, falling apart with the most delicate touches. Fresh meat hauled off from neighboring farms, freezers full of flesh. Pounds of salt and blood filled my kitchen, the oven stuffed with warbling eggs and weeping meringues. My plates were the bitter, biting stews of Russia, pan cakes drunk with rum, jammy eggs bled into soggy English porridges. At every turn, the kitchen stared back at me with unwavering truths. My hands ushered in the admissions that my mouth could not. They told me in the silence what I was made of, they told me in the dark that my soul was crumbling.
For all those who are able to leave abusive relationships, you have my pride and my allegiance. It is no task for the feeble.
At some point, the walls were shattered about me and I made my own pilgrimage, alone and untended, back to CA, where the sun burnt off those wilted petals of my heart, and my soul became warmed again. It was here I was fully able to acknowledge that the pain had cracked me right up the middle, left me spatchcocked. But it also left me keenly awake, better able to heal. My cakes were now for sunny spring days, for the thrill of life and friendship. They became stuffed with lemon meringues and polka-dotted with heady fudge truffles. I made pies with as much depth as my newly born spirit. Meringues still wept, but they tasted of caramel instead of table salt.
I still find myself kneeling before the messy altar in the center of my kitchen, head bowed, craning to see if my popovers have bloomed, my beets have charred, my tomatoes have dissolved into an unctuous mess. All the while receiving the blessings of handmade fair.
This is the food diary of a waif. This is the story of how she found her footing traipsing around the kitchen sink. The song-stories herein are an examination of where I am, where I’d like to be, and the frail turbulence of the human condition. This is my forum to evangelize to beautifully brittle souls gathered around a pleasantly imagined table. I hope that I can offer some comfort of the same variety which other food bloggers offered me, unbeknownst to them, when I most needed it.
My recipes are written in tears, both happy and sad, both grateful and sorrowful. They are for comfort and for growth. They’re for the waifs and for the lost, for the recently found. My bakes are alive with the memories of the times gone by – for better and for worse. My love has grown like a weed, choking out the thickets of pain. And I’ve learned to cherish the fallen, the neighborly, the kitchen-blessed, the culinarily-curious. I intend to continue the hunt for the passionate, the intrigued, and the forgotten. It’s why I’m so damn eager to discover the treasures of local community.
No matter where we hail from, we can all use a dose of supper around the table; sipping tea and supping on cracked breads while the candles wile away the hours, dancing with our ghosts.