Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Sixth Sense Ignited

Memories of food stand out with surprising clarity in my mostly blurry recollections of childhood. The intensely sensory nature of cooking surely plays a role in why these memories are so vivid, but perhaps more important was the encouragement I received from my parents. They never shooed me out of the kitchen; instead I was given a chair to stand on so I could be part of the action.

Cooking involves an intricate blend of all five senses and they are all prominent in my memories: kneading dough for cardamom bread with my mother, the uniquely spicy smell permeating the air. Bundling juniper berries and slicing kielbasa with my father for choucroute garnie, and wrinkling my nose at the smell of sauerkraut not yet mellowed by hours baking in the juices of pork, chicken, and sausage. Plunging my small hands into cold (somehow appealing in its sliminess) ground meat, eggs, and breadcrumbs for meatballs, my father reminding me not to overwork the meat. 

As my experience grew, I came to realize that a sixth sense – intuition – is just as important as the others. I loved this magical dimension, the synapses firing and pulling out memories of smells and tastes to help decide what extra pinch of spice might be required to make a dish “pop.”

Attempting to cook in what may have been the world's crappiest kitchen. I don't miss that apartment...

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