The day after Sam and I return home, I have an overwhelming urge to cook. Drew suggests that we just throw some hot dogs on the grill and call it dinner, but the idea—usually welcome on hot summer days—sounds appalling. No, I want real food. Real, homemade, not-from-a-box, not processed, not cooked by someone else food.
Maybe it’s because Sam and I spent the previous week away from home in Maine, staying with my parents in their small apartment. I was making my once-a-month appearance at my remote office and Sam was at camp. We returned home every evening to my parents’ cooking: soups, crepes, stews, rice, potatoes, grilled vegetables and chicken, an apple cake baked in a large, cast-iron skillet. They both still work; this was not their way of spoiling their daughter and grandson because they didn’t have anything better to do with their day. No. This is the way you do things. This is how you feed a family.
My mom is not one of those super-pushy “eat, eat, eat!” kinds of people, but still—every meal has at least two courses. There’s always soup, even in the heat of summer. There’s always a main course and dessert. Cooking is a serious activity for them—sometimes my mom stays home from the beach or wherever we plan to go on the weekend, because “someone has to make lunch.” After my dad sips his afternoon coffee, he usually slips off to the kitchen to prepare the chicken for that night’s dinner, to peel potatoes, to boil water. We are still in the haze of breakfast and lunch when dinner begins to loom over us. When we leave, the smell of onions and paprika linger in our hair and clothes for days.