So, yeah, I forgot to report back on this because I was distracted by my country basically going insane. Hello.
So, I went with the British cooking book, and…honestly, at this exact moment I can’t really remember what I made. I think there was something with a cheese sauce and hard-boiled eggs, baked, on a bed of mashed potatoes and leeks. That was good. And another thing with chicken thighs and apples baked in cider. That was also good.
I’m sorry folks; I haven’t the heart to report back more on things. I’m still in a punch-drunk daze about the election. I’ll probably summon myself enough to only make one recipe from the second cookbook choice – I’ll go with the New England cookbook I was trying to think about last month – but right now, cooking just seems like a utilitarian thing now.
But this will pass.
Raymond Carver has a short story called A Small, Good Thing that rings true, and eventually I will remember its message. It’s about a young couple with a son who is about to turn eight years old; at the very start of the story the mother is placing an order for his birthday cake, due in one weeks’ time. But that same day the boy is hit by a car, and is brought to the hospital where his nervous parents wait by his side for two days until he dies. His parents spend the next several days dealing with the funeral arrangements.
The whole while – while the boy is in the hospital, and after he dies – the parents are also bothered by mysterious phone calls from someone who calls to say “I’m calling about Scotty (the boy), did you forget him?” After several days they finally realize – it’s the baker, calling to remind them of the forgotten cake. Mad with grief, they drive to the bakery to yell at him for torturing them – but instantly realize that there’s no way that the baker would have known their son had died. The baker, too, instantly regrets the hurt he’s inadvertently caused them.
He asks them in, sits them down in his office, and brings in a tray he’s just pulled out of an oven.
“You probably need to eat something,” the baker said. “I hope you’ll eat some of my hot rolls. You have to eat and keep going. Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this,” he said. He served them warm cinnamon rolls just out of the oven, the icing still runny. He put butter on the table and knives to spread the butter. Then the baker sat down at the table with them. He waited. He waited until they each took a roll from the platter and began to eat. “It’s good to eat something,” he said, watching them. “There’s more. Eat up. Eat all you want. There’s all the rolls in the world in here.”
The three sit in the office and talk – the young couple about their son, the baker about his job. About the thousands of wedding cakes and birthday cakes he’s made over the years. About how he would rather be a baker than a florist, because he gives joy but also nourishes people. And over a loaf of dark brown bread he pulls out of the oven later that evening the three find some kind of comfort and communion.
Eating is indeed a small, good thing at a time like this. Right now I’m only eating because I know I have to, but in time I’ll be able to savor again.