Last Saturday night I cooked dinner. There was even a guest present, and when the evening was over and I’d taken attendance, both of us had survived.
The menu was an unusual kind of spaghetti made with turkey and based on a recipe from Miss Piggy Cooks, a cookbook from the ’80s or ’90s whose cover bears her porky, insouciant likeness and the promise, “A portion of the profits will be donated to Meals On Wheels.”
When I was learning to cook, people thought Chef Boy Ardee was Italian for “supper.” They didn’t use whole wheat spinach spaghetti. Also there was no ground turkey. As far as I know, pre-diced peppers, mushrooms, and onions didn’t exist. Red wine we had, of course, and Italian bread. But didn’t we form the meat into balls, and didn’t we make our own tomato sauce? (And wasn’t the bread easier to chew?)
Cooking today is convenient. Years ago I could afford to spend an entire afternoon making dinner for company because back then I wasn’t a writer staring into space, trying to find the right word (“melancholia”) or figure out why my protagonist was so sad (easier to spell).
Now I’m a writer lingering over the laptop rather than the stove. Still, the urge to cook, to handle the flatware I was given for the marriage that turned out to be as flat as the ware, to eat off the china that was hand-painted by my great-aunt with the state bird, all occasionally pull me toward the kitchen.
This wasn’t my only recent attack of domesticity. A week earlier I’d invited a new friend from Ukraine, Boris, to dinner, relying on a cookbook whose title I misread as “Through His Stomach to His Heat.” I’d aimed for his heart, but ended up with burned pyrizhky and had to order in Tex-Mex that was less than excellent. Not unlike my protagonist, Boris left the house in the grip of melancholia, made more serious by an attack of diarrhea.
Undeterred, I’m in the market for a new cookbook. Something unusual. Sino-Aztec cuisine, for example. Something so exotic that no one will know if it’s good or bad.