Portrait of an Artist as a Single Dad – Girls in the Kitchen

The pot’s about to boil. It’s about to billow steam. The first curls rise from the surface and beads of air cling to the sides of the pot. I am held in that moment where it is too early to drop in the linguine, but too close as to set it down. The sauce is already done and why did I not get the water boiling earlier? I am notorious for getting some things ready ahead of time, while lagging getting some ingredients prepared. You know, trying to get all the garlic out of its little husk and diced as the onions are sauteing and then caramelizing and then getting a little scorched or realizing the coals in the Weber will not even be remotely ready when the potatoes are mashed and the veggies steamed. Ah, dang it anyway. Luckily for me, my girl posse has some shadow of patience and not to mention, will raid the fridge for strawberries in a pinch to ward off the hunger. I am lucky too that my girls do like to cook with me at times. Especially when we are making the World’s Best Guacamole.
They each have their own ways of being in the kitchen and each has the thing they like to do and each has dislikes that are of course in tune with whatever the other likes. They are sisters after all. Maddie is one of the few kids I know who will spend her allowance on fresh fish or octopus and has since she was eight. In fact she told me I needed to learn how to make sushi and she’d chip in on the fish cost. What a kid. Sophia likes to blend spices and herbs and use a mortar and pestle to grind ingredients together. She likes the bold flavors, while her sister likes more subtle flavors. They are each their own artist.
The editor, poet, and awesome friend, Mary Carroll-Hackett once said to me: “Cooking is your other poetry, Writer Man,” and indeed it is.
I never thought about it in terms like that before, but an interesting observation by my former poetry teacher Peter Makuck was that poetry was like spices in good cooking. Balanced, flavorful, and nourishing for the mind and the body.
Food and poetry. The sonnet of spaghetti. The villanelle of venison. The pantoum of parsley. The sestina of seafood. But I digress. So here I am in the kitchen trying to bring it all together. Form, function and the higher calling of art. What greater art can we practice than sustenance? What style or flair do we bring? What balance or unity? Because when it is out of balance, things don’t work out right and I’m not just talking about overflowing the food processor with the juice of chickpeas during Operation Hummus either. Oh no.
I am talking about waiting for that moment when the water bubbles and the linguine is released like a helicopter-rappeller from the skid. Into the heat that is. In the heat of the kitchen. In the heat of the moment. In the heat of creation. In the heat of living like an artist. In the heat of love and life. To keep at it and mindfully practicing it and, with the help of the girls, bring all the ingredients together in a satisfying way before they rebel and seize all the strawberries. The barbarians at the refrigerator door.
But in the end the dinner makes its way to the table. A simple pleasure of flavors, serve hot. Enjoy.

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