A Cook’s Tale

My grandfather used to cook on trains during the Great Depression. I guess you could say it’s in my blood (a love of cooking… and a love of trains). I never met my grandfather. A train ran over his foot when my father was a boy, and he got cancer from the prosthetic. I’ll never know if he was a good cook…

This is not a photo of my grandfather cooking on a train during the Great Depression. My father didn't like his father much, so there are very few pictures. This is just some guy cooking on a train during the Great Depression.

When I cooked in restaurants, I used to wonder who was eating my food. It was a most intimate connection — the person preparing the food, and the person eating it — yet it was utterly anonymous. Save the occasional “compliments to the chef” delivered by a waiter, they ate and left back into the night to rejoin their lives, and you never knew. I wonder if my grandfather thought about who was eating his food when he cooked on trains. I also think about the person back in the kitchen cooking when I go to a restaurant, and hope it is someone who loves food. At home, when I am cooking for family or friends, I hope they can experience my love of food and my love of them when they eat.

I find myself thinking about food a lot, even when I’m not cooking. I wonder what flavors will taste good together, which textures and colors will complement each other. I think about it the same way I think about what colors and composition will work when I’m contemplating making a painting, or what chords should follow others when I’m writing a song. Cooking is every bit an art, but a fleeting one. If you create a masterpiece, all you are left with are memories. Which is more than enough.

There’s no reason to eat bad food. Because good food is so, so easy. Buy good quality raw ingredients. Treat them with reverence. Keep it simple. (The best meal on earth is composed of spaghetti, a couple really ripe tomatoes, some good olive oil and some well-aged parmesan reggiano.) Let each individual flavor and texture shine. Challenge, surprise and delight yourself. When you’re cooking for people, those you know or those you don’t, put love into the food. They’ll taste it. Don’t cook out of a box. Cook outside of the box.

Once I cooked on an ocean liner. Maybe one day I’ll cook on a train, too.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Suzanna
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 17:03:18

    I have felt the love! And I always try to observe or at least think about the folks who are actually making my food when I eat out…its a nice ritual.


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