Oh, this feels good. I can taste it now. It tastes wonderful. It has a velvety feel in my mouth. A heady scent. Opening the lid makes me feel better - stronger - readier. But tasting it like this - tasting it today - right now ... how do I describe this? It's nearly done. It's nearly time to plate and serve. This is good.
I thought it would be a shorter cooking time than it has been. Several times I have peeked under the lid. Tasted a bit. Bitten in. But no. Not yet. Almost, but not yet.
The smell of it has permeated everything. One life has been receding, while my coming life has been simmering there, at the back of the stove, sending out little wafts of the scented herbs and spices I have been collecting and adding to the mixture for decades. The anticipation has been a sort of low level hum in the background, while everything else, good and bad, has been happening.
One child was already gone. Another left. The third has been getting ready. Take away the educating of my own children. Remove the pieces from the pot. The flavor of it remains. Add a spoonful of work at the library. Add another. Stir. Simmer. Taste. Do not let the pot cook dry. Add water. Adjust the lid a bit. Let the steam escape. Finish bedroom walls. Throw away things only fit for the dump or recycling. Clean out the cupboards and tear out a wall to rebuild it. This is a thing prepared in stages. It cannot be rushed. There is no shortcut.
Sprinkle a summer class into the simmering mixture. Be careful. The smell is intoxicating and like any other inhaled thing it will potentize in your breathing.
[Po´ten`tize: To render the latent power of (anything) available.]
I breathed deeply in that class. I felt that power surge. All at once, I remembered my own name.
This sort of cookery is hard work. I wonder if anyone ever told me that.
In the winters it is difficult to keep the temperature steady enough under the mixture. In the summers the heat is unbearable and it is easier to ignore the simmering pot than to open it or stir.
Cookery can burn a woman too. My potholders have scorch marks and I have learned at last to open the lid away from me so that the steam does not blind me. I can show you the places on my hands and arms where I once burned myself. I have cut myself too. Carelessness born of exhaustion, and now I have the scars.
This is no child's play, this sort of thing. And it cannot be bought at the membership warehouse or under the florescent tubes of a grocery store either. Ingredients have to come from farmer's markets and herb borders in gardens. Sherry not fit to drink is not cooking sherry. This sort of cookery needs wind and rain and sun and seasons in it - not packaging.
While it cooks there - while the developing flavors marry, and the flavor intensifies, it becomes a thing made not of ingredients, but made of the relationships between them.
This morning, today, I lifted the lid and inhaled.
I am all alone in my house on a Sunday morning, an extremely rare situation. I am healing from surgery, and I am healing well. I resume work next week. Before another month is out, this house will contain none of our offspring at night when we go to bed. We will not wait for the sound of a car coming home in the darkness or even a phone call. It will be just the two of us, here in our house, in the second half of our life together.
Today, when the man and the younger man drove away to go to church, I tasted it. I sat down to do a Morning Prayer office, and I wept. This is it. I looked around and breathed it in, and I knew. Here it is. For these decades, it has been simmering away, quietly in the background most of the time, commanding my full attention some of the time. I have honed my skills, and I have learned the nuances of a spice or an herb and the effects of temperature. I have paid the price for inattention and I have taken spoonfuls around the house to anyone at home, saying, "Taste this! It's really good right now, isn't it?"
This fall, I bring it to the table. The only thing left is to adjust the seasonings to taste. It's harvest festival time, and oh, how good it is.