The Joy of Cooking

Sometimes our interests and passions wax and wane. In the world of cooking, my interests are constantly changing..sometimes I am in a rut, cooking the same meals over and over and not feeling inspired to try anything new. Other times, I start one recipe and find myself cooking three things at once so I can use the leftover egg whites or make a stock from the bones of a roasted chicken. I just keep going, greeting each ingredient as a piece of a puzzle that will eventually evolve into a beautiful and satisfying picture. This summer especially, I had one more ingredient to inspire my cooking…a new grandchild.

                                  Asher at 6 weeks                                                                                                               

In July, our family was lucky enough to welcome the first of the next generation, Asher Michael Morrison. He was born on July 14 in Brooklyn, an elfin guy with a bigger presence than his tiny body. Needless to say, it was love at first sight. Of course I volunteered to come help those first two weeks after his arrival and to be sure his soon to be weary parents, our daughter, Katherine and son-in-law, Travis, were well fed. Offer accepted.

I carried a ziplock bag full of fresh herbs from my garden. And there was the leftover smoked ribs and chicken I stashed in the car as we hastily prepared to leave for New York. We found an Airbnb two blocks away from their apartment. The food selection in the neighborhood was fabulous: handmade gelato and pastas right around the corner, gluten free bagels and a twice weekly farmer’s market in the park right across the street. There I could load up on miche bread, homemade pickles, lamb sausages, cheese and every fresh summer fruit and vegetable. And just two blocks away was the spanking new Whole Foods on steroids where I enlisted my husband Buck as official sherpa. We went almost every day for cold brew coffee, bagels, fresh fruit, cheeses and salad ingredients and their special quinoia and flax loaves. 

Two or three meals a day for 14 days and I was in heaven. I was given free reign on menu planning out of necessity... often the sleep challenged new parents didn’t have enough mental bandwidth to decide what they wanted to eat! The cooking itself was often interrupted by the need to rock that baby boy or run a load of wash and I quickly remembered how to cook and unload a dishwasher with one hand, a muscle memory  generated by a strong survival instinct. The kitchen was well equipped and spacious by most NYC standards. But it was easy to overload the fridge so I got to be really creative with leftovers. Nothing is more fun for me than trying to make something out of a snippet of this and a handful of that. Leftover pork chops became sliced pork sandwiches with Lexington style slaw, poached salmon became salmon salad for lunch, corn on the cob turned into corn and tomato and green bean succotash with basil, leftover smoked chicken showed up in chef salad one day and as a chicken salad sandwich the next.  Extra boiled potatoes were just right for hashbrowns for a sleep deprived daughter a couple of mornings. 

Most afternoons after the first fews day, I left a written list of items for dinner and how to reheat. I then retreated to my own place for a  much needed late afternoon nap. At the end of two weeks I posted a list of frozen entrees on the freezer door... enough for a week! Freezer list

The first week, the food was more ambitious and cooked to order: poached salmon and asparagus with aioli, basil potato salad, corn on the cob, sauteed pork chops, chef salads, mediterranean pizza with artichokes and lamb, the smoked pork ribs and chicken. I even felt inspired to roast a turkey breast  to slice for sandwiches and make an old favorite recipe for cold turkey tonnatto.  By the second week I was focussing on one dish items that I could freeze half of for after I left: lambs shanks and white beans, Italian sausage, peppers and mushrooms and kale in a balsamic sauce for pasta, chicken tagine, turkey chili. Looking back I realize that I hardly used any recipes, just cooking and planning with what I had in front of me.

I learned to leave some fresh watermelon and other sliced fruits in a bowl for my daughter to nibble while resting or nursing. Food had to be relatively easy to eat...sometimes one handedly. Several days I found myself hurrying home the block and half from the gelato place, hoping to arrive before our treasure completely melted.

Since the city was steaming hot, many meals were prepared for cold or room temperature serving and we often had cold soups: carrot and ginger, gazpacho (courtesy of Uncle John Goldstein) or chilled asparagus. Turkey burgers with ricotta was an easy favorite so I made a lot of extras to freeze for a quick one-handed meal after I left.

I was sad to go. I loved arriving in the quiet of the morning, the sun streaming in their front window and little Asher ready for Grandma time while his mom took a shower and ate breakfast. So what if it took an hour to empty the dishwasher? 

Lucky grandmas like me are given the gift of time with no distractions. I could show Asher pictures, sing him songs  and just gaze at his wondrous little self. One rainy day I imagined him splashing in big puddles on a city sidewalk in a pair of oversized red boots. I have fed thousands of people in my lifetime, created something from almost nothing hundreds of times. I have cooked for my family since I was ten years old. I can’t remember when being a cook was a greater joy.

                                           Asher and Me  in the Morning












  1. Barbara Croft's avatar
    Barbara Croft
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    Beautiful. Just what new parents and child need. Total nourishment. Well written and evocative of a special time for you all.

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