Deb: I am not a member of the cooking club. I do have club privileges though because I married a cook. Which means I can use club equipment like the blender and the double boiler. But I don’t.
All my dearest friends are in the Cooking Club and I am treated to their wonderful culinary talents every time we meet. I LOVE IT! Every dish a mouth-watering masterpiece, and I always count myself lucky to have a regular seat at the trough. But sometimes, I confess, I feel left out. The club applicant whose credit rating didn’t quite measure up.
The girls in the club talk like Cooking Klingons spouting phrases like “sauté this” and “flambé that” and I nod and smile and double-check that the blade of the knife on the place setting I’m doing is correctly facing the dish. As I have said before, I know my way around a well-set table. And they appreciate it, make no mistake. They are all over me with the compliments about the centerpiece and my choice of flatware.
But I know that beneath the praise lays a pinch of pity. For although I love it, we all know that is all I can do. That, and chop––the lowliest of the bull-cook duties. Yet even when I am chopping, I can see them glancing over to make sure the veggies are the right width or that they are sliced on the correct slant. I start to panic and sweat, hoping against hope that the knife won’t slip out of my hand and slice the finger of this lowly chopper. So I finish my assigned duty and put the choppees into the bowl allotted to me and await my next instructions. I glance around to see the cooks laughing and talking about braised something with something sauce. They don’t even know I’m alive.
Is that a teaspoon on the table instead of a soupspoon? How could I have made such an obvious error? I rush to the table to fix the offending spoon. I am safe in my club. The Table Setting Club. Very exclusive. I am the only member.
Barbara: I think you won’t believe me, Deb, when I say: “I don’t pity you! This is envy all over my face! Those sidelong glances in your direction as you chop are not judgment, they are silent exhortations: Deb, for godssake, leave the food and get back to the beautifying! Sure, we want you to feel useful, but without your esthetic touch, the whole thing will be so … ordinary!”
As a self-professed member of the Cooking Club, I wish I had half your talent (and, frankly, patience) for a table-well-set. All that work in the chopping and braising and sautéing and, if it’s left to me, no lovely linens to set it off, no pretty posies of flowers or ornaments, no place cards, no elegance. I don’t even know where to begin. I hold aloft my platter of yummyness and stare at the barren table and sigh. Oh well. Maybe next time.
Deb sets not just a beautiful table but creates a spectacular environment. If it’s a special event, there is every known beautiful decoration known to man to adorn the occasion. Hell, you don’t even need to eat, it’s all so pretty.
But I will say this: I do love to cook. I love feeding people. I love the whole sensuous experience of it. And—Deb will vouch for me here—I LOOOOOOVE to eat. Beautiful table or not.