22 July 2011

When I'm Old and Grey

I have a picture in my head and in my heart of how I want to be when I'm old and grey.  It used to be a different picture-- one that had in it a significant other with whom I am holding hands with while walking off into our happily-ever-after-sunset.  Now it is just me strumming my guitar and singing some James Taylor song (Carolina on My Mind) while waiting for dinner that I've prepared to finally be ready. Maybe before I sleep, one of my two children will call me to talk about stuff in their life and that would be the most perfect day.

I wouldn't like to think I've lowered my standards of happiness but rather that I've redefined what it is that makes me truly happy.  And I think that this is true for most of us because at different points in our lives, we have different definitions of what that is.  For example, when I was younger, I was happy to have someone adore me like I was the light that made their darkest days bright.  I loved the attention for quite a long while and that was what made me happy.  Then the admiration stopped and naturally I was unhappy again.  Don't get me wrong, I don't see anything wrong with how you choose to define your happiness (except of course if you define happiness by setting things on fire or hurting innocent children--then you need to be sent to that special place in hell immediately) because that is a very personaI thing.  

People always tell you that you can't let your happiness depend on one person but that is just crap (pardon me), hypocritical talk.  You can't really help it, can you?  Nobody can dictate, not even yourself, that which makes you happy and whom you to choose to love.  If that were the case, you can just choose to fall in love with someone who already loves you, someone who treats you with kindness, rather than some bad boy who behaves like he is God's gift to you. Or you can choose not to love someone like Hugh Jackman (who really is God's gift to ALL women not in the lucid state), where there certainly will be much effort (mostly useless) to be exerted for him to love you back. If that were the case, then the world would have been saved from so much pain and sadness.  I think that that--needing someone-- is a part of the cycle of our lives.  That we are born alone,  live and need people for awhile and then in the end, we will again find ourselves alone.  Maybe, because I got to the alone part earlier than most people I know, I am not as afraid of being by myself in the last summers (I refuse to believe I will have to see winter) of my colorful life.  The trouble is when we don't like this person  we'll be stuck with (ourselves) and I'd like to share something that may help you with this.

Different schools of thought will teach you one of two things: 1.) that life is a straight time line and that you will pass through this moment only once and 2.)  that life is not a straight line but is a cycle of sorts.  I think though that it can be both such that things have a way of repeating themselves until a lesson is learned out of it.  There were times in my life I questioned why such things happen only to find out later on that I am being taught a lesson I wouldn't have otherwise learned had the exact same situation not been presented to me.  You may be angry at your Mother and sooner than not, you find yourself sitting in a room presented with the very same crossroads your Mother encountered in her life and then you begin to understand her and see life as it unfolded through her eyes.  Life is funny like that.  Some like to call this karma, others poetic justice.  I call it Repeater Status.  When we fail to pick up the lesson life tries to teach us, events just repeat themselves.  And when we keep refusing to learn the lesson then life becomes this meaningless cycle of error after error until we are older but sadly none the wiser.  I refuse to be that because that is a sure way of not being able to literally live with yourself when you're old and grey--to spend the remainder of years regretting the life you've lived.

I pray that I be granted with a relatively healthy head to afford recalling the memories of my life--the happy, the sad and everything else in between. To remember meals that I've prepared with the people and their stories told in the warm light of my dining table.  To remember those that I've forgiven and those that have forgiven me.  To remember the lessons I've been fortunate enough to learn and teach.  To still be able to know the recipes to the dishes, the chords to the songs, the lines to the movies of my life (some of which belonged to the horror genre though mostly comedy, really).  

And finally, I'd like to be with the last man in my life, the one who's been there through the thickest of the thick and the thinnest of the thin--James Taylor, finding peace and serenity as we sing ...Going to Carolina on my mind...:-)  

19 June 2011

The Memory of Taste

Jacques Pepin once said something to the effect that a recipe is a guide to the memory of taste.  That when a cook writes down a recipe, he or she writes it with certain reference to the situation of an ingredient.  For example, if you follow a recipe for Osso Buco, the recipe would perhaps say that it needed a kilo of ripe tomatoes that have never seen the insides of a refrigerator (as my recipe would say).  But depending on how much love, care, sunlight and water your tomatoes received, or if the farmer's truck broke down on the way to market and got rained upon, the amount of tomato and likewise effect in taste would vary.  A recipe therefore is a guide to recreate the taste the author experienced while making a certain food depending on the situation and circumstance surrounding him the day he or she was writing it down.  Cooks always return to the same memory in an effort to recreate the exact masterpiece every time.  This I observed is so very similar to what lovers lost do.

Once upon a time you danced with this man under a silver, Neverland moon with diamond stars that dotted the endless black sky.  And everything was magic.  But. Here you are now, trying to recreate the same enchantment chasing the very same moon and begging the very same stars to lend its light to the very same dark night and...nothing.  Not even a spark.  And you sit there tired and befuddled that after having followed the recipe to the dot, the memory of taste cannot be duplicated.  

Jacques Pepin said too that each recipe is a work in progress and that he knows when a recipe is done, when nothing else can be added to make it even better. And in that sense the recipe is a living document not just a formula made of letters and symbols written in stone.  It may be improved, altered and enriched depending on that which you choose to add.  Kinda like in relationships, huh?  As in relationships, chemistry is needed for it to begin, romance to make it blossom and commitment for it to flourish.  But as time goes by, you'd need a healthy dose of laughter and a constant infusion of trust for the dish to always be as delicious as it was or even better than it had ever been.  Some of us are fortunate enough to get to the point when the recipe is done, as Pepin says, when it is perfect as it is and nothing else should be added.  Of course it is only now that I understand that it takes a long, long time to get there.  That it is imperfect for a long, long time, before it finally is.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the patience to get to that place where nothing more is needed, that sublime place of perfect peace.  Not everyone has the wisdom to understand that the recipe changes with time and with whom we are trying to love. We keep trying to chase the memory or stick to a formula without considering that we are applying these to different people and different times.  Or that it could in fact be the same person who is already different inside.   

I realize that I should love the way I cook, for I always cook in the now.  Depending on what kind of produce I have, the kind of flour I'm working on, the amount of humidity in the air. I always adjust. Loving is pretty much the same.  Memory is good when it is a reminder and a guide of a good thing.  It is bad when we continue living there without realizing we could be achieving the same if we lived and loved in the here and now.  We will never have the exact same tools and ingredients nor will we ever be and be with the exact same people.  But as long as we know this, we will always have a chance to improve, alter and enrich that which we have.  

Here's to more days of cooking, living and loving for all of us.  :-)