Two hours ago, I walked into the kitchen, my mouth still fuzzy from the peach vodka and sodas I'd been drinking very happily with my friends the night before. Just now, I walked out. There is a spinach quiche cooling on the stovetop, a swirl of custardy eggs and cheese, spinach and fresh tomatoes. On the burner, I've covered a pot of pumpkin, shrimp and coconut curry, flavored with lemongrass I pulled from our plants on the balcony and which I cooked up sans recipe because my assistant forget to buy onions and I forgot to tell him to buy tomatoes. In the oven, a pineapple upside-down cake is baking, with brown sugar I carmelized on the stovetop and freshly-cut pineapple. In the fridge, there is a fresh white cabbage, ready to be grated into a dressing of lime juice, fresh mint and hot pepper (what I'm starting to call fresh chillies, because everyone here does). I did this all myself, almost magically, happy because Nate is coming home and I want to have nice things around for us to eat.
I love this kind of cooking. It helps that Nowah, who comes in to do dishes on Saturday mornings, is around to clean up. "Ah, you're busy now," she said as she greeted me. "Boss man coming home today?" We then agreed on the proverbial way-to-a-man's-heart-stomach dictum, which seems to have made it into West African culture as well...
A few years ago, when I was living on a farm in Tanzania and friends with the only masseuse in town, I'd invite her over for an afternoon to give massages to everyone. I remember making her fresh mango ice cream in custard made from farm eggs made by the chickens running around our yard. In between sessions, I pushed a bowl of it, light orange and thick with mango-ness, into her hands and handed her a spoon. "You're a kitchen witch," she said, smiling.
It was one of the best compliments, one of those things that stays with you and builds you up forever after it's been said. Before that, I'd been a little uncomfortable finding my way around a kitchen, always sticking to books and asking people's opinions. After that, I found my own way. And now, on Saturday mornings, before a yoga session to shake my hangover, I'm grateful that I can make something with my hands and heart that everyone can enjoy.