As a child, on a Sunday afternoon, there was always an orchestra of sounds and smells emanating from our kitchen. The tap of a spoon hitting the side a pot, sizzles popping from a pan, the clank of a knife chatting away with a chopping board.
It was my mother’s kitchen. She was constantly churning out 5-layer chocolate cakes, that to me, seemed as big as our house. Her roast chickens and rustic strawberry and rhubarb pies looked like they belonged in a fancy food magazine, not on our dining room table.
My grandmother’s kitchen, too, had the aroma of a busy delicatessen.
My two sisters and I were always assigned jobs. Stir the batter; chop the carrots; lay the table. Our payment was getting to lick the leftover chocolate icing from the edge of the bowl.
It imprinted a love for cooking on all of us.
When I moved to San Francisco last year, with my dog Pixel, I quickly settled into a similar Sunday routine. Pixel and I would stop at the local farmer’s market on the way home from a morning walk, collecting fresh vegetables and meats to make for dinner that evening.
But as I didn’t know many people here, I quickly learned that cooking alone wasn’t as much fun as cooking for others.
One weekend I took a trip down to Los Angeles, where my older sister lives. Before I had even had a chance to throw my bags down, my sister yelled, “Who wants to make brownies with Uncle Nicky?”
My niece, Willow, who had just turned 3, and my nephew, Luca, who was closing in on 7, excitedly threw their hands in the air. “We do! We do!”
Flour came out of the pantry, eggs from the fridge, bowls and trays appeared on the white marble kitchen counter. We were all assigned jobs, and we set to work.
The kids shared a step stool, their tiny hands fighting for control of a large wooden spoon as they stirred all of the ingredients together.
In the end, there was flour everywhere. The kitchen looked like a snow globe.
We soon heard a “Ding!” from the oven and we sat at the kitchen table to devour the homemade sweets. The kids legs swung back-and-forth against their chairs as they devoured their brownies with pride.
“Do you cook a lot in San Francisco?” my sister asked me.
“Sometimes,” I responded. “But it’s not as much fun to cook alone and eat by myself...”
Before I had even finished my sentence, Luca, my nephew, stopped mid-bite of his brownie, and stared at me with an angry glare.
“No you do not!” Luca said, angrily. “You do not eat alone!”
I looked at him, not sure how to respond. “What do you mean?” I asked him.
“Pixel is always there with you at dinner,” he said, referring to my dog. He was genuinely offended by my comment, as if I had intentionally excluded Pixel from my memory.
“Pixel eats dinner with you and you’re never eating alone. She’s always there to keep you company,” Luca exclaimed. “She loves eating dinner. She loves eating dinner with you.”