One immutable law of the kitchen when I was growing up was food heals. Regardless if I were laid low by a thwackingly bad cold, a bully from school, or just a winter weekend without snow, food cured all. The powerful antidotes? My grandmother’s chicken soup, my aunt Irene’s massa sovada (sweet eggy bread), my mom’s stuffed quahogs.
And that’s the philosophy I brought to the stove when I began cooking. It’s as if my dishes were shouting, like a carnival barker, “Looky here, looky here! A touch of gout, sir? Too many wrinkles, ma’am? Feeling blue about a boy, missy? Dr. Leite’s Magical Meals will make you feel like you just got a hug from the great Jackie Gleason himself.” And in each case, the palliative power of cooking—the kind that takes time and care and love—worked.
My belief was put to its most rigorous test on Saturday, September 15, 2001. New Yorkers were finally able to leave Manhattan after the attacks on the World Trade Center. The One, our friends, and I fled to the safety of our weekend homes. That night, as I served as many carbohydrate-rich dishes as the table would hold, six broken people slowly shook off the torpor of 24/7 viewing of the tragedy, the incessant roar of F-16 fighter jets overhead, and acute bunker mentality to hug, cry, even laugh.
That night, armed with Braised Beef Short Ribs, Celery Root and Potato Gratin, and Cheddar-Crust Apple Pie, I beat back a cabal of terrorists and won. So who could have imagined that a slight, troubled 18-year-old girl would eventually take me down. Read more »