learning to be a cook.

Chopping vegetables will always take me back to Boston.

I spent countless Monday evenings standing at the counter in Casa Taj, removing the papery skin from onions, slicing them into horizontal rings, and dicing them into smaller pieces, tears burning my eyes. I’d peel the tough outer skin off sweet potatoes and cut them into small cubes. Bell peppers (always green because they were the cheapest) would be de-seeded and diced along with the rest. A swirl of olive oil in a pan, then I’d add the onions and bell peppers. A healthy dose of garlic and spices came after that.

I’d stir and stare off into space while the vegetables sizzled on the stove or soup simmered.

Eventually, I would move onto shredding mountains of cheddar cheese. Usually I would be checking the oven throughout, peaking in to see how whatever baked concoction I had dreamed up was coming along.

Our knives were never actually sharp enough, and no matter how much we scrubbed them, the counters never seemed quite clean (the floor was a complete lost cause). The dish drainer was always overflowing. But that kitchen felt like home.

I would have never said that I could cook before JVC.

I had long understood the beauty of baking, but that year was when I begin I understand the beauty of cooking, of putting a full, sometimes even healthy, meal on the table to enjoy with others.

I still cook mostly from scratch, but now it’s mostly just for me. I sometimes still don’t scale my quantities down, so I end up with pots of soup large enough to feed me for two weeks.

But now I love cooking. I enjoy having friends over for dinner and having excuses to try new recipes. I didn’t grow up in a family where we ate dinner together every night, but that is a ritual I now cherish.

For me, as with many things in life, sharing food goes back to the ancient idea of breaking bread, of the community that forms when we all sit around the same table. I now revel in any opportunity to share food with friends in any sort of intentional way. There’s something sacred about the table, about warm food and a real connection. I’m grateful to JVC for showing me that, and I’m grateful for my ability to (literally) bring something to the table.

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