Re-Learning How to Cook

My best friend uses a soup pot as a laundry basket.
When she hangs her underwear on the line, it’s always lace, colors that bloom like flowers.

When she hangs her underwear on the line, she never uses clothespins.
Instead she ties each piece in a slipknot– the underwear suddenly becomes flags, dancing in unison, waving to you in the wind.

When her clothes are dry, she pulls them off the line & piles them in the soup pot high, the pot is overflowing with texture. The feel of things. Scratchy sequins & stained t-shirts. That tight faux leather skirt. A ripped jean jacket with buttons & sewn on patches worn daily for so many years. Silk for a soft day.

You remember that we are constantly trying to patch ourselves together again. We are searching to make our days softer. We use what we got to carry our load. She saunters through the kitchen, soup pot full, down the hallway to her bedroom. You watch her from the window as you begin to pick out the fabric of your morning.

*

There are things here that are new for me. Pour over coffee, lemon & full clove garlic cooked into everything, playing Tetris on the one shelf of the refrigerator you lay claim to, checking the lid twice on the liter of milk before you turn it sideways & place it gently next to the eggs. Hoping you always have enough room & finding you do, in fact, somehow always have enough room. There are things that haven’t changed. Talking to your father when he thinks to check in, telling him, yes the glass is half full, though yes, it is sometimes sad, but yes, you tell him, yes, there is always enough room for more. You sometimes stammer when you try to explain, but there is always enough room.

After lots of practice, you have learned to cut the potato in half before boiling, placing the other in your refrigerator basket, saving it for another day. When you are cooking for one, there is always something left over.

Sometimes if you use the tiny cast iron pan, it makes everything feel more full. When you are done, you grease the pan, cook it on high at 425. It comes back out shiny & glistening.

*

During the hardest months, you gave up on cooking & only ate sandwiches.

You learn that the most decadent of items can be placed on a sandwich. Lox, pickled habaneros, radish, sunflower seeds, sliced olives, the works. You tried to be more creative with your sandwiches because you felt inspired, but then after awhile you gave up & stopped buying food. You realize, scrounging your shelf on the pantry, that anything left over can be put on a sandwich and still be okay. Even if all you had was ketchup, you’d still make an okay sandwich. & you think back then to your friend on his porch as a child, eating ketchup sandwiches on white bread, & you get it, after all those years of wondering why he loved ketchup sandwiches.

There was a night when you had to fast because a dog ate your bread. He went and ate the entire loaf, bag & all. You say bad dog & remember why he’s getting so plump. Your heart ripens then at the plump dog who is smiling back at you & you begin to think more about the significance of sandwiches. You think back on that time long ago when an old lover made you a tuna sandwich after sex & you felt so full & happy. He called it tuna buna, adding in peas & sauted onions, some kind of spice. You remember the other lover & how you celebrated a new year’s day by making two reubans on rye. You learned how much you love rye seed, how they made you feel full & nourished. That year was full & happy.

*

During a particularly cold night, your roommate comes home with a bundle of items: fresh flowers, whole fat milk, gourmet cheeses & pate & fancy crackers –I wanted to warm myself up & feel full– she said. You had never tried pate before. You learn that night that you hate pate, spitting it into your palm with a grimace & a laugh. It had been a long time since you really hated the taste of something. You are learning to try new things. You are learning to use what you got.

You grab the soup pot from underneath the stainless steel counter & you begin to collect your laundry. You’ll let it dry in the sun & dress for the day. Later that night you’ll make soup.
You’ll fill the pot & have lots leftover.

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