“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” ~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Melville says it best. He knew just what to do to deal with his own blues. The sea, for him, is the ultimate comfort, the place where things make sense, and nothing seems out of place. The sea is his confidant and his cure. Despite of the killer whales lurking, the giant waves and the grizzly storms threatening a shipwreck, it is at sea that he felt at home. When you find yourself “growing grim about the mouth” and wanting to knock people’s hats off, where do you flee?
Have you ever noticed that no matter how lovely your home and how spacious your living room, people always tend to gravitate towards the kitchen? I spend many an evening happily crammed around some kitchen counter with the other guests, trying to be helpful and staying out of the host’s way all at the same time. My own postage stamp sized kitchen is forever teeming with people during any dinner party. It is a most peculiar phenomenon.
Why do we feel so comforted by the kitchen environment? I am not sure, but in my case, I do believe it stems from my spending time in my Grandma Katherine’s kitchen as a child. I remember being perched atop a tall rickety kitchen stool, enveloped in the moist heat perfumed with the most intoxicating aromas. Invariably, there is a heaping platter of piping hot piroshky (hand pies) in front of me. They burn my hands and my lips but that doesn’t stop me from stealing bites while listening to my Grandma sing while she cooks, watching her move with grace and ease. These memories are no less vivid today than they were when I was six.
Grandma Katherine has been gone for years now… I still miss the smell of her kitchen and her singing while she worked. But her legacy lives on in me. I inherited her recipes and her kitchen grace. The kitchen is my “sea”. When I find myself grim, defeated or uncertain, I cook. Whenever it is a “damp, drizzly November in my soul,” I try to get to the kitchen as soon as possible. It is MY place where everything makes sense and nothing is out of place. The kitchen is my confidant and my cure. Sure, there are dangers lurking. The kitchen, like the sea, isn’t forgiving. A mistake here can be costly. But there is something tremendously comforting about taking a bunch of ingredients and weaving them together, creating something all together different. A kitchen success is exhilarating.
So here I am, in the kitchen with Moby Dick. Grim and defeated and uncertain no longer, and people’s hats are safe from the knocking. Grandma Katherine’s spirit watching over me. All is right with the world. Who wants to come over for dinner?
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