With our first, I hadn’t a clue what to expect. But as with most every occasion I went with my default — food.
At the store I bought an expensive load of groceries, much fancier than our usual fare. White hydrangeas and a couple bottles of wine, a flat of raspberries like wee garnets, three pounds of sirloin. When I brought them home and unloaded it all I proceeded to exercise the love language I know how to best express.
First things first: the beginning stages of Julia Child’s classic boeuf bourguignon. Dicing beef, frying bacon, browning batches of the meat, four minutes in the oven, stirring, four minutes in the oven, then pouring with reckless abandon from a bottle of red wine (“young and fullbodied”). In goes a faggot of savory herbs, some crushed garlic cloves, tomato paste and homemade beef broth, to be sealed with the meat and wine in a hot oven at a moderate temperature, emerging three hours later full of steam and juices and rich aromas.
Then wrapping tiny smoked oysters in strips of bacon, to slowly crisp up alongside the boeuf for our appetizer course, and clipping away the spiny leaves of the artichokes I picked up on a whim.
Whipping plumes of powdered sugar and vanilla into coconut cream, caramelizing pearl onions and shiitake mushrooms, arranging a cheese course with sliced radishes, pouring champagne. All steam and heat and crumbs akimbo, my apron over my dress and a scarf keeping my hair back from my face.
I like to do this dance alone in the kitchen, where I’m free to time the next act in accordance to the thousand little measurements taken with a taste here, a skillet toss there.
In the end I am the master of the symphony, solely responsible for the failure or the success of my creation. My favorite solitary task means little if it can’t be shared. And so at the end of my conducting, all there was in the kitchen was a plate of stew, low candles, the hydrangeas I’d bought and the yellow daisies he gave me, a crust of bread, a satisfied sigh.
All the work is nothing without that sigh. If what I create doesn’t satisfy hunger it is meaningless — not just a physical emptiness to be quenched with something to chew, but a deeper hunger of connection, of warmth, of love in the tangible form of something delicious.
My wish for my marriage is simple: May we always be hungry, and always be able to feed each other well, wholesomely.
Artichokes with Herbed “Aioli”
2 whole fresh artichokes
peppercorns, a bay leaf, a whole garlic clove
2 Tbsp. mustard
1 Tbsp. grassfed ghee (clarified butter)
1 tsp. coarse sea salt, fresh black pepper
1 Tbsp. champagne vinegar
generous handfuls of whatever fresh herbs available
extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor, combine the mustard, ghee, seasonings, vinegar and herbs into a smooth paste. Any herbs would be excellent here, but I used a few fistfuls of flat-leafed parsley, thyme, French tarragon (my favorite!), and some little leaves plucked from my baby basil plant. Whizz this all together and drizzle in olive oil until smooth and emulsified.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, boil enough water to cover artichokes. Rinse artichokes under running water to dislodge any dirt from the leaves, taking care to avoid the spiny edges. Chop off the stem and about a third of the top of the artichoke, and with kitchen scissors clip the sharp leaves away.
When water is boiling, submerge artichokes, bay leaf, garlic, peppercorns and a little salt, bring back to a rolling bubble, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until artichoke leaves are tender. Drain and cool, and serve with herbed sauce for dipping.
Relish the juices running down your arm and the visceral nature of tearing at the leaves with your teeth. You can be civilized when the next course arrives.