I have always been a mediocre cook. And a terrible meal planner. Maybe this is due to my upbringing as a man, or maybe it's due to my experiences around food as a child, or maybe I am not that creative, or maybe food is not how I sustain my family. I am not sure, and maybe it does not matter. I am just not a cook - and definitely not a chef.
As I see it, cooks are people able to execute a recipe that has been prescribed, whether for macaroni and cheese, or tuna nicoise. Cooks can open Fannie Farmer and generally get dinner on the table. Cooks are who you call when you are hungry and you need to eat. And don't get me wrong, cooks make the world go round and without cooks we are lost.
However, a Chef is a person who have a sense of food as art, life and love.
For chefs, food is more than what comes together at the end and that you put on the plate, the things that you bless at the dinner table. For a chef, food is creation. There is magic there; the essence of life as it unfolds. There is a gift of the generous heart. The gift of love as the pan heats up, the oil bubbles, the garlic goes in, the lemon and parsley sizzle and shrivel and the air fills with an aroma to lift you up.
For a chef, it's not about making dinner, it's about giving of themselves to the act of creation, about giving to the ones they love. It's about the love for humanity.
Heather is a chef.
When we were first together, fresh out of college, as it related to food, at the time, I had only one simple request: that the fridge always be full. There is meaning in that statement, and it did not escape her in the slightest. She could not cook, or even boil water, but that was a commitment she made to me. It was not that she was going to make me supper every night, or anything like that, it was a simple gift to me.
Years later, after she had learned how to execute a recipe, something amazing happened. I don't know when it was exactly, and never realized it at the time, but food for Heather became something much more. And she took it much farther. It had become life, a gift of love, and a creative expression of her engagement in the world. And this is on top of her other work.
People loved to come over for supper, and Heather always made something they would love. Something filling in the deepest way. Something that fed more than their bellies. Something that built a relationship, that crafted a friendship, that opened hearts and enhanced spirits. It's what you wish for when you eat at a friend's house. In fact, there has been only one other person with whom we have experienced that kind of feeling. Dinners at our house were nights to remember and nights of love and laughter and tears and hugs.
And then with K & O, food took on an entirely new meaning.
Sustaining life, building life, feeding the soul. Feeding love, baby spoonful, by baby spoonful, attempting to fill up a bottomless pit in need. Attempting to remedy so much that needed help. With time, thought, care a love, things got better. And although certain parts will never overflow, the shrinking bellies could sleep soundly at night, calmed, filled, loved and comforted.
Now in our life some of the gorgeous dishes of past have fallen to the wayside with the limits of time and energy. But in their place has sprung up something new. A new kind of sustenance, a new kind of meaning in food. The beauty of food has taken on a richer meaning, a whole life meaning.
In creating food, now with her children along side her, Heather has brought new meaning to keeping the fridge full. She is teaching her little boys (and soon will teach her daughter) how to give love through the creative expression of putting food on the table.
The essence of love in the full plate before us.