It began out of necessity—the unplugging of our kitchen. We were stereotypical college students: poor and hungry. We sold our extra equipment online to help pay the rent and stock our pantry with items that my great grandparents wouldn’t recognize as food. We had forgotten how to feed ourselves, thought of food as mere necessity and cooking as drudgery. In our efforts to make a dollar we became reacquainted with an admiration for our food and were introduced to a new way of eating.
By eliminating the unnecessary, we participated in the tactile and immersive experience of cooking, and gained a tangible understanding of the labor and technique of traditional meal preparations. We made more space on our counter tops by removing the machines that came between us and our ingredients, and cultivated a new appreciation for food at its most simple and delicious.
In her cookbook “The Art of Simple Food,” Alice Waters wrote, “You don’t need years of culinary training, or rare and costly foodstuffs, or an encyclopedic knowledge of world cuisines. You need only your five senses.” As we unknowingly embarked on our new kitchen adventure, preparing meals became a sensual experience. We had reawakened a pleasure for the basic acts of cooking, learning by touch and taste and smell.
By grinding a pestle in a mortar, hand-squeezing juice out of our fruit, sliding cheese down the furrowed side of a grater and brewing our coffee on the stove, we precluded the need for excess kitchen equipment and changed our perceptions about food. Our discovery of culinary techniques encouraged us to pay greater attention to the quality of the ingredients that we consumed. We discovered that the freshest onions were those that made our eyes tear up, and often the tastiest products were those grown in our own backyard. Local farmers became our best resource, empowering us to connect to the land, the seasons and each other.
We continued to unclutter our kitchen long after it was a financial necessity, not only because it better acquainted us with our food, but also because it fostered a closeness between us that caught me by surprise. Our time in the kitchen became somewhat utopian: early evenings spent peeling and chopping vegetables by the warmth of a preheating oven, sipping red wine in a mug, eventually an inquisitive child in his pajamas hovering over. Something out of a Norman Rockwell. Our proximity to each other and our connectedness to the ingredients we prepare are reflected in each dish; you can taste the laughter or the tears we cried, hear the cadence of the songs we danced to.
By simplifying our kitchen equipment, we host authentic conversations with our food and the people who help us prepare it. We rediscover the wealth of culinary wisdom developed over generations, and our kitchen morphs from a room in our home into an idyllic retreat to gather and to cook, where healing happens for both the body and the soul.
Read past Back to Basics posts here!Words — Britty Wesley Photos — Heather Zweig Logo Illustration — Katie Michels