Sometimes there’s nothing better than throwing on some music and chopping up some vegetables. Cooking alongside music (that is just loud enough so you can still hear your pan crackling) is like the perfect date: lovely company that is always right on time, and never fails to disappoint. Depending on what you’re making, it might even be all dressed up for the evening.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Amy Millan lately. In my kitchen, she is the flavor of the week, and she goes particularly well with wild mushrooms. But lately, her whispery, ever so down-home-country voice has been making me desperate for something comforting. Like a cherry pie, or mashed potatoes, or the home cooked meal I had last night with my parents – because what could be more comforting than old-fashioned potato salad, grilled chicken, and being surrounded by the throes of your childhood? Not a whole lot.
In celebration of my Dad’s birthday and retirement (a smiling congratulations to him), I meandered the 20 minutes of winding, backwoods roads that lead to my parents home, where I grew up, and even though I don’t live there anymore, what I like to refer to as my home-home. My mom had planned for a summer meal just like what I was raised on: simple, unfussy, but better versions of old favorites than you could ever imagine. If there was ever a mother’s home cooking that make you reach for thirds and fourths, this is it. (Really, I’m still recovering.) My parents also have hearts bigger than most, and keep a house that is generally brimming with long, idiosyncratic stories and wonderfully awful puns. You should come over sometime, I’m sure they’d love to have you.
When I got there, there was already music playing in the kitchen, and, as moved by the atmosphere, I grabbed a knife and finished what residual vegetables needed to be chopped. Dinner was lovely, complete with a curled up lab at our feet, and as we talked, it felt just like the old days, only better, friendlier. (Consider this a formal apology for my various stages of teenage rebellion and a hearty thank you for such a saintly pardoning.)
Anyway, here comes the point where everyone is probably expecting a recipe, or two. I want to give them to you, I really do, but the problem is, my mother has yet to email them to me (curse the age of computers!). And in the interest of full disclosure, once I have them, I still may not give them to you. Wait, let me explain: I hope you’ll forgive me, but there are some recipes that are meant to stay in the family, to be passed down like little heirlooms, and by god, this potato salad is one of them. I may deliver on the chicken marinade front, though – that is still to be decided. I can’t help but daydream about the day I’m in my kitchen, all grown up, cooking with an old Amy Millan album on, when my daughter walks in for dinner. I’m going to want to tell her how to make this dish that my mother made before me, and that it exists only in our memories. And then in all likelihood, if she gets my genes, she’ll run and go publish it on her food blog, maybe. But that’ll be up to her.
*Thanks, mom, for being (unlike my lentil salad) very photogenic.