Growing up in a large Italian family, much of life was in the kitchen. Each afternoon, one of my five siblings or I would be the “sous-chef,” helping set up, prepare for and clean up from dinner. In these moments, my mother took the time to teach us not only how to cook, but what cooking can do for your soul.
She would remind us to take our time with what we did, food – great food – was not to be rushed. Feel the texture of the pasta dough. Taste the heat of the sausage or capicola. Experience the many levels of flavor and colors in a fresh sauce. Smell the bread as it was taken from the oven. Enjoy the rich color of the oils and the vinegars. Each is there to not only add to the taste but to create a fuller life experience. Every detail matters.
Though I loved to cook, my work has always taken me on the road. As a coach and speaker, my clients’ locations became my locations, seeing airports and businesses around the country and world. Each night I was on the road was one less night connected to the tastes, sounds, smells and feel of the food we so lovingly created as kids. And then COVID-19 grounded me.
Staying home, because I couldn’t travel, reconnected me to the kitchen, my youth and the celebration of food. Now, each night is an exciting adventure of what to make. I get to consider what is growing at this moment and what would bring back a special feeling or emotion. Lovingly preparing each item reconnects me to my Mom (she has since passed) and the wisdom she shared in the hours I spent in the kitchen with her. Then, sharing the completed meal with family and friends finishes off the experience (we call it a ZoomMeal as we eat with each other using our video screens to share our meals, our tastes and our thoughts). We don’t eat to live, we live to eat. Each meal is a moment of celebration, not only of the food, but of life and being fully present in the moment.
I understand how complicated and difficult COVID-19 is for all of us. But I have learned that in a moment of interruption and reset, we can look at what we used to do and determine if we want to still do it. Running to all corners of the country for work had its value, but it robbed me of a critical passion that always fed my soul. Now I have it back. I have changed how I work to give me more time at the market, at the stove and at the table. I need it. I love it. It keeps me sane, happy and grateful, no matter how crazy the world is.
But now I have to go because the bread is ready for the oven. If you were here in an hour, you would enjoy the best focaccia, a recipe I learned from the generations before me. Buon Appetito.