This past weekend, nearly 11 months to the date that I left my marriage, I returned to my marital home to spend the weekend with my children while their father was away at an event. I was excited, not only because my oldest was coming home for spring break, I was excited to be reunited with my kitchen—my dream kitchen.
In my post, A Return to Simplicity, I talk about how I did not need my beautiful, state of the art, high-end kitchen to cook a delicious meal. At the time I wrote, “I’ve come to realize that the reality is some of the best meals we remember were prepared in very modest settings.” I still believe that is true. But the opportunity to work with my old friend, my dream kitchen, well it turned out to be a bittersweet reunion.
It was in fact a reminder of what I had lost, more so than what I had gained. The reality was that the kitchen provided the infrastructure in support of my culinary creations. However, all the supplies I took with me—the bowls, the Calphalon® pots and pans, the Henkel® and Wusthof® knives, the garlic press, the KitchenAid® mixer, the Cuisinart®, all of it and more—were just as important in assembling the dishes and meals produced in what was once my home. I needed both, kitchen and tools, to produce the suite of dishes and meals that sprung forth from the pages of my recipe books and imagination. In some ways this revelation provided a strange analogy to what a marriage is. Ideally each party brings to the marriage skills and traits that complement the other person. Kitchen was the infrastructure, the backbone for the creative process. Tools were the worker bees, so to speak, in bringing the dishes to fruition.
But like a fractured marriage, when splitting the two apart, I felt the loss of the tools that had been assembled to work with a kitchen built to spec to accommodate my needs as a cook, knowing that they were all in my new place and not at the ready in my old, beautiful kitchen. When you take a negative action—even when you believe it will be in the best interest of both parties—you feel the action as much as the person who is the recipient of said action taken.
Setting foot in that kitchen I felt in the smallest of ways the actions that I had undertaken. Running an inventory of what was on hand in terms of supplies and food staples, I immediately realized that I had to prepare a basic meal for my son. It was no different from the meals I was preparing in the apartment where I had all the tools on hand, but no double oven or extra counterspace. But while the space in my apartment represents a new beginning, my old kitchen represented what I had lost. While I do not long for my marriage, there are elements of my old life I miss. My neighbors, the community, my yard and my kitchen are what yearn for the most. And of course, those times when things where good in my marriage. Unfortunately, the challenges outweighed the good.
More so than the functional setting for my craft, the kitchen was also the center of my home. When I cooked I had an audience, whether it was family gathered for cocktail hour at the island to keep me company as I finished my meal prep, or a celebration where the kitchen was an extension of the party that permeated my home, I was seldom alone. While I know there are people who cook in solitude and enjoy it immensely, there is no greater joy than cooking for others. Because of my passion for food, I fall somewhere in between. Cooking for myself is fine, but it takes more effort to cook for one, than to cook for others. I chalk it up to the extrovert in me.
In the end, Keller was treated to a pan-fried steak, roasted potatoes and sautéed broccoli rabe—a basic but flavorful meal, but a treat just the same to my college student. I was grateful to have him safe and at home, as was his sister, and thankful to have one last chance to cook a meal for them in my beloved kitchen.
Tips for a good steak
This isn’t so much a recipe as much as a guideline for how I prepare my pan-fried steaks. I may publish an official recipe at some point. Though I been making steaks for years in a particular way, I need to test my technique to make sure it works for others.
- Buy the best quality steak possible. This really goes without saying with most items.
- Make sure it is a thick cut.
- Marinate the steak for at least an hour.
- Use olive oil and a marinade such as Goya’s® Mojo Crillo in a ratio of 1 to 3.
- Also, season the steak with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- To seal in flavor and juices, use a grill press upon the steaks.