For me often, it starts with a song.
Tonight, while cleaning up a kitchen that has fed many, I was quietly standing there, wiping down the counter when this song came on:
Immediately, as if time travel actually existed, I was transported back to my little apartment on West Annie 17 years ago.
Those were such different times. Easier. Less responsibility. Less give-a-shit. Fewer belongings. Less everything. I was 23. I was baking at the Hyatt every morning at 4 am. Theoretically, I should have been in bed every night at 8 am, to be able to get up at 3 am. That never, ever, ever happened. More often than not, I would come home, sleep for a bit, play, sleep again, and then get up to hang out with my friends who worked the later shifts. Bartenders, servers, managers and well, cute boys that cooked.
This particular night that smacked me in the face tonight was close to the holidays. It was a cooler night. I was baking in my tiny kitchen in my tiny 450 sq foot apartment. I was probably too broke to go out and socialize, so instead, the people would come to my little studio for late night drinks, food, and conversation.
We would sit on the plastic patio chairs on my balcony, smoke all the cigarettes, listen to music (CD’s thank you very much) and just talk.
My visitor that night was a bit like kryptonite to me. Smarter than shit and had a moral compass somewhat more off-kilter than mine. We would spend hours talking about life, books, all the things. He was somewhat obsessed with Sly and the Family Stone and therefore, so was I. (Enter the song above.)
This song, oh, this song. #9 on the CD if I remember correctly. We would just play this song over and over and over and try to figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up.
Me? I wanted to work for a while, get married, have all of the babies that I could. I knew I would have some job, but my career was never ever crystal clear to me. Him? He had a job, a girlfriend, another girlfriend and then there was me. We never actually ever dated. We spent a lot of time together just talking and trying to impress each other. At that point in my life and probably to this day, this guy was the only person who loved books and music as much as I did. Late nights, music and smokes… that’s my memory of him and then.
Anyways, my point. There actually is one.
At that point in my life, my future seemed so easy to consume. It made so much sense to me. Austin was an interlude to the rest of my life. A life that was going to get me a few kids, a husband (who was already identified, btw) and this odd construct of a life that made so much sense to me then, and today, just makes me shake my head.
I was young, broke and having a blast. My biggest concern was scraping up enough money to buy some smokes and cab fare. Everything else just seemed to fall into place.
I was doing what I loved.
I was surrounded by a weird conglomeration of people. My people. Most of whom I haven’t seen in years, but there was a little tribe of us smart, smart people who were going to be super successful doing whatever it is that we planned on doing at the turn of the century. Oh holy hell, that just made me feel old.
That night, everything seemed so simple and easy.
Turns out, nothing is ever so simple or easy as you expect it to be.
That little life of cooking, babies, and husband? Ya, not quite.
The days in Austin? Haven’t lived there for over a decade.
Cooking professionally? I barely do more than roast a chicken these days.
This weekend was the first time in ages that I managed to feed people throughout the weekend. I roasted, sauteed, pureed, baked. I took the sparest of mostly whole ingredients (sans some incredible cookies that I’ll write about tomorrow) and just got back to the basics of making good basic food. I forgot what it’s like to do that.
I miss doing it more.
After a week that was incredibly challenging, and gut-wrenching at times it felt good to slip back into the kitchen and create. To forget about the bullshit of living and instead exact a beautiful sauce out of some simple roasted squash. To meticulously measure out equally sized cookies. To play with a filling that’d been on my mind for months.
I might not have the cute husband and/or the babies that I thought I was going to have by now, but I can still plate up something pretty when my heart is into it.
That’s what it all comes down to- putting your heart into something. It’s been a while since I’ve actually done that. The rest? I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
“Que sera, sera,
Whatever will be, will be;
The future’s not ours to see.
Que sera, sera,
What will be, will be.”