I often talk about what it’s like to cook with someone you’ve never cooked with before. I compare it to dating. And it really is like that. Long before I met Alma, I felt like I already knew her. Mutual friends would talk about Alma — her cooking, her home made recipe books, her words of kitchen wisdom. So, when I met Alma a few years back, I instantly felt comfortable. During one of our first introductions, she gave me one of her cookbooks as a gift, from one cook to another. This simple gesture, although not an uncommon one for Alma, triggered my desire to cook with her. After all, with her cookbook in my kitchen, there was already a familiarity. And, as with dating, it’s nice to have some background first.
Within the pages of her spiral bound notebook, were not only hand-written recipes with personalized notations, but also the ruminations of a smart, talented and witty woman I wanted to know better. For me, cooking together was the natural way. After a few failed attempts, today was in fact, our first cooking date. We came together to make soup for the “Souper Bowl” event, one where we make and freeze soup for neighbors less fortunate than ourselves. Alma shared her mother’s wonderful curried carrot soup recipe and together we chopped, chattered, and cooked, while getting to know one another. At one point, Alma paused and took in a great big breath of the sweet curry scent coming from my stovetop. She remarked how good the soup smelled and at that moment, I was briefly invited into thoughts of her mother, prompted by a familiar aroma. Early in our cooking date we learned that we shared the same favorite knife and vegetable peeler. By the end, we knew we shared so much more.