The light is most yellow in the kitchen.
I’m making lemon ricotta pancakes while everybody is sleeping. I’m slicing oranges or peaches or berries. I’m walking to the bakery before the day gets too hot for croissants and pains au chocolat. There’s a gentleness to scrambled eggs. The pan is barely warm, and the spoon moves sleepily back and forth. Chives and fleur de sel to finish. It is simple and good and too big to be turned into a metaphor. I’m making coffee and tea and maybe lemonade with mint. When we all sit for breakfast it is a blessing.
My kitchen is full of stubborn smells: onion and garlic and olive oil and tomato and coffee. They cling to hair and skin, the way love does. There are too many dishes in the sink and the tile catches the quietest ray of sun. The bottles crowd on top of the fridge. There’s an origami frog hidden on top of the cabinets, too far for me to reach.
Sometimes I make myself breakfast and serve it in bed the same way I would for my lover: hot chocolate and toast and perfectly cut-up fruit. I make it beautiful because I am still asking forgiveness. I’m trying to make this kindness a habit.
On long summer days I take my friends to walk by the river and when we come back I make a big bowl of pasta aglio e olio to share. I roast strawberries for ice cream, and on a hot evening we pull it out of the fridge and eat it with big spoons and we are still children. Recipes say “this is a labor of love” and it sounds like an apology, but the work of love breathes into my kitchen. You can taste every minute of it in the slow-simmered broth, in the rising dough, in the clumsily folded dumplings and the warmth of soup.
I count days and weeks in produce. Bright strawberries then cherries then peaches then figs and tomatoes and grapes right as summer dies. All kinds of squash and mushrooms and deep green leeks for warm stew and company in the winter. Sweet clementines and oranges I dip in cinnamon and blood oranges blushing on the kitchen table. Not so long ago when I was angry and confused I thought maybe I needed to live for something or maybe there was nothing to live for. Now I’m happy to live for nothing but ripe tomatoes kissed by salt and olive oil.
Some winter mornings the sky is bright and blue for maybe an hour, and then clouds gather and crowd and it quiets down. When I come home on those evenings I still carry that little blue pink yellow sky triangle I met in the morning, holding its breath between two buildings. Some days my grey kitchen looks me right in the eye, and I see all its blue and sweet summer mornings. My kitchen is a love letter: to sunday mornings, to joyful dinners eaten on the floor with all the windows open, to me.
Barbara Lewis is playing and I’m stirring the tomato sauce. I let it stick and brown and get lovely. I am on the phone with you. There’s roasted eggplant and basil and maybe a little cinnamon in the sauce. I fill up my bowl with warm pasta and eat it sitting alone at the kitchen table and it is evidence: everyday I am a little less lonely.