The Cook's worst enemy.
Words, studded with question marks, float across your mind.
While each holds its own array of sinister properties that may pose varying threats to her comfortable kitchen life, The Cook's greatest nemesis fits no such category. No; her opponent is far more illusive. Their truest diabolical nature will be left undiscovered until the invitation has been sent and the dinner served. Only then, does it become apparent that she is dining with the enemy. Melodramatic you say? Give me a chance.
Let us discuss the nature of The Cook. She takes many forms. If you find yourself titled as the chef, foodie, or baker of your social sphere, you are The Cook. Expectations are ingrained. If there is a dinner party, there is no chance of you getting by with wine or dinner roll duty. Leave that for Carey - everyone knows Carey can't cook. No, you will be given something with a far greater range of possibilities. After all, you are The Cook. Oh, you are a food blogger as well? Then make it stellar. We refuse to settle for anything less than a Gâteau Opéra. When your portion of the dinner is served, or passed, or cut, the “oohs” and “ahs" and exclamations of anticipation resound.
If you have been The Cook for any reasonable amount of time, this will not intimidate you. This is simply what happens when you are The Cook. You have grown accustomed to hearing things like, "No thanks, no dessert for me - oh! She made it? Okay, maybe a small slice." It is a reasonable, prosaic nuance of human behavior. When entering an interior designer's home we immediately inspect the wares, the paint, and the upholstery on the strangely uncomfortable sofa. Suddenly everyone has an inner sense of design and is restlessly waiting to either be impressed or disappointed. This rings true with every profession open to the public eye. The Cook is no exception.
She knows it. She embraces it. She sometimes uses her ethos to indoctrinate leery appetites into exploring squid ink or olive oil gelato. And they will, simply because she is The Cook.
It is 6:28 on a cool, rainy Friday and the door bell sounds. "Two minutes early," she mentally records. The visitants are new to this sphere but have heard that she is The Cook. Her freshly cut pasta has just reached al dente. She uses a measuring cup to dip out a half cup of the sacred, salty, starchy, water and drains the long ribbons of tender parpadelle. They spend but a few steamy seconds in the colander before meeting with the simmering sauce on the stove top. A sprinkle of Parmesan, a splash of the reserved water, and into the serving dish. Olive oil drizzle - and finito. The bread is from a corner bakery - they know her there. It is warm and cozied in a cloth that was likely her beloved aunt’s at one time. The butter has been muddled with fresh herbs and the mousse trifles safely set in the refrigerator. She has done this before. She is The Cook.
Dinner is presented docent-style as though it were a famed piece of art. The meal begins. The wine uncorked, the bread buttered, and forks dipped into the wide, golden strands of tender pasta she cut just hours ago. First bites and sips are taken, and conversation begins. The weather, the "how has your summer been?," the "I love your blouse," "I love yours too" merry-go-round. The bowls are half empty, the glasses have already been refilled and still...silence. Her ears are ringing with it. She begins perspiring. She considers fishing for some form of response, but it would be all too transparent. "They hate it," she tells herself. The conversation drags along but she hardly hears her contributions over the rush of her own inner dialogue. "They hate it and are wondering how I ever became The Cook."
Dinner is cleared, dessert is served and finished. “He left two bites of mousse at the bottom of his tumbler,” she documents. Coffee is poured. A casual "goodnight" reverberates and the evening closes. A pleasant, vibrant evening with very pleasant, vibrant, conversational guests; but no acknowledgement for The Cook beyond a wonted "thank you for dinner."
The Cook does the dishes, all the time wondering what went wrong.
Just not foodies? Perhaps. Not everyone throws around compliments so easily.
For The Cook however, it is devastating. Her art can only ever last but mere moments. Always being created only to be consumed. Her only lasting glory is found in the praise of her diners. It was the bait that first seduced her into her love affair with cooking. She loves people - she loves happy, satisfied people. Deep down, every cook is a people-pleaser. She has no choice but to find her glory in delighting the palettes of others.
Silent eaters - they are the enemy.
The Cook might even find it in her heart to tolerate the demonic vegans of this world, but silent eaters get no repeat invitations.
At the end of the night, The Cook is quieted by their quiet, left to cook another day and hope for another "oh, you made this? I'll take two slices."