It surprised Franny, her newfound love of cooking. In her previous, busy life, her kitchen had been a place to heat food prepared by someone else. She did her best to choose boxes of frozen meals that were marked “organic” and “natural” but who really knew what the conditions were like in the giant commercial kitchens where those ingredients were combined. Who really knew what the people in those food factories were thinking or feeling as they cooked macaroni or turned on the machine that vacuum-sealed a portion into a plastic, micro-wave-safe pouch.
All Franny had wanted from food then was quickness, easiness, convenience. Good taste was a nice bonus. Healthiness was somewhere down the list.
Now, ever since that first dinner party in her apartment, with the pasta and sauce triumph (she still thought of it that way), Franny could not wait for the chance to cook. She eagerly awaited the farmer’s market opening, a week or so away. Meanwhile, she experimented with vegetables, tofu, spices, and herbs. She learned to cook rice perfectly although she couldn’t really explain how. She reveled in the discovery of homemade peanut sauce, made with spicy chili paste, all-natural peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, and her secret ingredient – a liberal dash of cumin. Mixed in with her perfect rice (chewy, with a bit of tooth to it, and a few hard grains were okay with Franny) and black beans and any veggies on hand, she’d feast for days.
Mostly, though, Franny discovered she loved cooking food to be shared. What a gift to see a friend enjoy something she’d made, to see how good food could make others happy. Divorce rends into tiny pieces the perception of oneself as capable of making another human being happy.
Cooking brought that perception back to Franny, and sometimes she would weep with joy for it.
She felt on the verge of weeping as she watched Leo inhale the curry-infused carrot and sweet potato soup that had been simmering for most of the morning in the crock pot he’d given her when she moved in. He was a sloppy but grateful eater, and the dribble of bright-orange liquid on his chin proved her saving grace. It turned Franny’s tears to giggles as she allowed them to bubble out of her.