I always think that kitchen radios should be white, small, and speckled with cooking grease, although that’s never how they’re depicted in movies. To see a kitchen radio in a movie, however, would mean it’s a period piece. Kitchen radios, you see, are from another time
. I picture midsections and frilly (and seemingly purposeless) aprons, the waist high view of a child, a child still allowed innocent curiosities like the smell of chopped cilantro or the bubbling of pancakes as the batter stiffens. Elbows and celery, something short and fluid in the motions of chopping and sweeping. The connectedness of motion and sound.
The kitchen is my room, where I feel secure no matter how many apartments I go through. No matter who I live with, I gear that room toward me and my needs, and no one complains. This is usually because what works for me as one that likes to cook works for anyone who likes to eat. In all my years and kitchens, I have only had one large enough to eat in, and when it was, I would climb on top of the counter island, spooning my coconut sauce with a onion-caked fork and smile. The kitchen is my home.
Cardamom. Coriander. Nutmeg. Mace. I once had this extensive book about many of the spices we use in cooking, with glossy, high color photographs, noting that Mace is the placenta looking web around nutmeg, or that sesame oil is darker than olive oil when show in identical ivory glazed bowls. The book made cooking look so clean. Every hand model was touching food only with their fingertips, as though showing the new features of the newest sports car. Cardamom. Coriander. Nutmeg. Mace. I only know these from one or two recipes, but I own their bottles now, and they are a part of me in knowing their names.
I know better, though, that cooking is messy. It’s about creation and destruction, combinations that equal more than their scripted parts, their halves and fourths. The mess of what you made and consumed lingers on every spent bowl and spatula, clinging to the fluorescent tubes above in oily spots that never come off, fusing with heat and light, forever.
Playing on the kitchen radio, there should always be salsa music, or some tinny accordion music. The radios themselves are always smaller, and so the sounds they emit seem like they should be smaller. The decorations we confine to the kitchen are often things we know will get destroyed with grease and heat and accidents, things we won’t miss. The tacky macramé wall hanging shaped like an owl with ultra perky eyes in terra cotta colored wooden beads. The corny Last Supper decal on a gold trimmed plate. Kitchen radio is usually like this, small and ugly and out of the way, playing only louder than the frying pan or the coffee maker.
Small in their topics, too. I don't want politics, no talk of war. I want only laughter and singing in voices I could never have. I want dancing and Sweet Georgia Brown. Small steps and shuffling feet, dancing around my modern day cauldron, making magic for others to eat.
The spoken words are like an incantation. Four cups of this and simmer. two pinches of that and boil. Pour reserve. Fold lightly with spoon. Fluff with fork. Serves 4-6.
I don’t cook too much in the way of the exotic; all my ingredients can be found in chain grocery stores, though some of them the check out girls don’t recognize at first glance. One woman looks at me and then down to the see-through, open-ended bag and all the questions are one word each: parsnip? Nonono...gingerroot? and she fumbles with her scroll bar of number codes. But I can do a little Thai, a little Mexican, a little Middle East, as well as standard meat and potatoes. The kitchen radio should have the option of taking you to a different place. Kitchens are always warmer than the rest of the house, their appliances arthritic and wheezing from being overworked, cooling themselves through modern engineering, waiting to be used in a few more hours. There’s the hum and tick, the shudder and shiver of the fridge that is too loud, and it shakes the floor, and the floor leans a bit.
Teach me to sing, to dance in small circles around you. Show me to waltz with a water pitcher, fearful every minute that it will break and send lemon slices flying like Frisbees. Let me feel that arm around my waist as he passes through for iced tea (that I make using half regular orange pekoe and half earl gray but I cut the sugar to half of what his mom would use), the strafe of lips along my neck. The smell of summer cooking, and the kitchen radio.