The Call of the Clatter

Let’s not be Debbie Downers here.  The best parts of the kitchen far overshadow the worst

In Netflix’s Michael Pollan documentary, Cooked, released the other week, Chez Panisse alum Samin Nosrat describes the process of cooking in her own kitchen.  She says, “This is some of my favorite things to do, these little…I mean you almost could call them mindless tasks, but I actually like to think of them as mindful tasks.”

This is exactly how I feel about prep work.  I love the act of working the raw ingredients with my hands, the process of starting to turn them into something delicious.  I love the mechanics of it, of doing the work with my hands, of growing muscle memory.  I’m actively learning how to do my favorite things, and at the same time, the work is iterative enough for me to pay attention to my surroundings–the sounds and smells of the kitchen.

Burners crackle under oil-slicked sauté pans, crusty baguettes are sawed into delicate crostini, platters clatter onto the stainless steel pass, ready to be plated.  The chicken stock pot, having bubbled slowly overnight, smells like Jewish grandmother healing potion for a cold, and lamb shanks waft a headily savory perfume up from their braising liquid.  Above all, orders are called out, and painters’ palettes of completed plates are whisked out to help fulfill someone’s ideal of the perfect evening and the perfect bite.  This is my happy place, and these are my happy sights.  My hands still smell of freshly picked cilantro hours after I have sauntered on home.

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