I recently proved myself wrong about something, which is a difficult task in and of itself because, as an Aries, I’m never wrong. I thought I was once or twice, but I was mistaken. See, I always thought that the greatest happiness to be derived out of cooking a great meal was in the pleasure and delight you brought to others. Nothing ever pleased me more than spending an entire day preparing food that, at the end of it all, was eaten with as much passion as it was prepared. Cooking is about control, while eating is about submission—and I never took that control for granted. But on the other end of the scale, when I found myself alone, I almost never went any further than a simple rustic bowl of fettuccine carbonara, a salad, or a grilled cheese sandwich. I guess I never felt that it was worth the effort if I was the only one being fed. What a schmuck I was.
A couple of Saturdays ago I found myself completely alone (well, except for the cat) ALL day and night, and for some reason, I felt inspired to create a meal worthy of my own praise, never mind anyone else’s. So I got out my Bouchon cookbook and decided on some homemade Parisian herbed gnocchi with sautéed mushrooms and butternut squash. I realize it’s not quite autumn yet, but it looked so damned good! Not to be outdone by dinner, I also decided to make some of my famous tequila-shot truffles for dessert, infused with lemon zest, enrobed in dark chocolate and dusted with a sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt. It was a lot to take on for one afternoon but spending all my time in the kitchen was cathartic, especially while listening to Elvis Costello and drinking a glass or two (or three) of my favorite Chinon: Olga Raffault’s “Les Picasses”.
By the time I sat down to eat my gorgeous meal it was about 9 o’clock, but I didn’t immediately stick my fork in the bowl and dig in like the ravenous little wench that I was. Instead, I sat in silence and marveled. First I just looked down and admired the beauty of the dish—there’s a reason Tom Keller gets the raves he does. The green speckles of herbs in the pan-fried gnocchi, the deep earthy brown mushrooms, the caramelized cubes of butternut squash, the crisp sage, all waiting just for me. I lowered my nose to the bowl and took in a deep breath. A smile came over my face and for the first time I realized that I was reason enough for that meal to have been made. The sight, the sound, the scent, the taste and the texture—I was worthy of all that, even if the only one else there to approve was Chloe, my cat. I found myself in the unique position of being both in control and in submission of one single, perfect meal. And in the end, I guess I wasn’t truly alone, because I shared the night with both Elvis and Olga, and really, who could ask for better dinner dates than that?