This was written but never shared in November of 2017, from my sunny kitchen.
By: Gabriela Yareliz
The morning starts with light seeping through the kitchen window. At first, the light just hits the white chairs and my window friendly plant, but then, it seems to escape its rays, and it dances around the room.
On my cooking morning, I usually roll out of bed; I brush my teeth, put on some moisturizer (God forbid my two sunspots get darker) and a hat. I slip on some jeans and a fleecy sweater, and I grab my tote with the sticky note of ingredients I need, which I wrote out the night before.
I walk over to the Turkish store, a few blocks away. The produce is usually already outside, on its stand, golden in the sunlight. I pick out my selected few ingredients, carefully, taking my time. I linger. Then, I walk back to my studio to cook.
My cooking mornings start early. I wash things and lay out the items on the table. I get the cutting board ready and preheat the oven, if it needs to be warmed.
When I sit to chop, it’s a methodical process. It’s usually quiet, and I sit by the bright window. I have a glass bowl in front of me, with an open cookbook. The cookbook is there as some type of moral support, as I barely look at it during my cooking because I read the recipe over and over again the night before. Instead, my thoughts are focused, as I chop and mix. I paint a picture of what I am aiming for, in my head. (My hopes for the dish and the ingredients I prepare.)
Sometimes, I don’t have all the ingredients I need. Sometimes, the store doesn’t have what I need, I mean, we can only pick from what is available. Sometimes, I forget the things I need at the store, or I arrive at certain conclusions, like: No, I will not pay $10 for two bay leaves. In NYC, one must be strategic when grocery shopping, and depending on how hot or cold it is, strategic about where one goes for the ingredients and supplies.
Cookbooks are these majestic books of knowledge, filled with magical creations and art on every page; ideas coaxing us to be brave and to venture into a new dimension of living.
When I cook, unpredictable things can happen. I remember, once, I made this cauliflower dish, and the cauliflower turned the strangest color. The turmeric mixture on it turned into a cough-inducing powder, instead of the cream it was supposed to turn into. Another time, I was trying to make coconut rice, and a chemical reaction happened, where it turned into a black syrup mess.
I’ve cooked in a sports bra and gotten splattered with jumping hot oil, and I almost grabbed a hard boiled egg with my bare hands, out of the boiling water (I was too deep in my own thoughts, at this point). I have had my cooking fails, but I have also made some things I was really proud of. Beautiful and tasty things. Nutritional and complex dishes. I am a want-to-be chef, in the making. I always wanted to be good at cooking, but while I did it before this point in my life, I didn’t have the same passion and excitement while doing it. It was a chore; a necessary evil. I just needed to get through it.
You see, it wasn’t until I was studying for the bar exam, that I would sit in my kitchen with a textbook and think, I can’t wait for Sundays to be mine. Once I don’t have to study, I am going to cook, and make something beautiful. I promised myself that. And when I passed the bar, early Sunday mornings became my cooking time. It’s a religious time, almost. A time of magic (because isn’t all creation a type of supernatural experience?).
One of my favorite films is No Reservations, starring Catherine Zeta Jones and Aaron Eckhart. The movie is about an intense and amazing chef, who endures a lot of tragedy and change in her life. At the end of the movie, I love when Chef Kate is speaking to her therapist, and she says something along the lines of, “I wish there was a cookbook for life, you know? Recipes telling us exactly what to do. I know, I know, you’re gonna say ‘How else will you learn, Kate?’
But then, her therapist responds and says, “You know better than anyone, it’s the recipes that you create yourself that are the best.”
Life is as unpredictable as you can get. It’s a roller coaster of changes, deaths and rebirths, losses and blessings, hardships and joys. Everyone has his or her fair share of hardship and heartache in this life. Sometimes, its consequences we brought about, and sometimes, it’s just the price we pay for having this beautiful thing called life on earth. We have dark moments where we feel we are drowning in darkness (and those moments are very different, from person to person), and moments where we rejoice. There are times of methodical monotony, where we feel like we are endlessly chopping. And at times, these periods bring us that all too familiar pain in the wrist.
There are times where what we try fails, sometimes, by no fault of our own. We have to scrap it, and try again. We get burned, and sometimes, we bleed.
No matter how crazy it gets, or how tired I am, I have noticed that the difference in my cooking started when I approached it with passion, curiosity, gratitude and devoted surrender.
There are guides in our lives that serve as cookbooks, such as scripture and/or self-help or inspirational wisdom. None of these includes measurements or precise solutions for everything, but instead they are books of principles and guidance. The truth is that there is no recipe for life or any aspect of it. Each life, relationship, and trial must be met with passion, creativity, gratitude and curiosity that submerges us into it, so we can make art and something beautiful out of the ingredients available.
“Each life, relationship, and trial must be met with passion, creativity, gratitude and curiosity that submerges us into it, so we can make art and something beautiful out of the ingredients available.”
We may have different ingredients than what we thought we needed or different from what our neighbor has, but with humility, gratitude and creativity, we can learn to make something beautiful out of what we have.
Choose to cook early, in life. What I mean by that is that night doesn’t last forever. Get up even while it still may be dark, and look at your ingredients in the golden light of the morning. Sit down and prepare next to the window, and let the warmth and light inundate where you are. Read a guide and become inspired. While you sit there, surrounded by all that you have, make something beautiful. Make your life a work of art. Cook something delicious, and after you make art, don’t forget to share and feed someone else.
“Cook something delicious, and after you make art, don’t forget to share and feed someone else.”