When Chaos Reigns, Cook

We’d been in Paris for about a week and I don’t think we’d eaten dinner at home more than once.  Our job that week was to sort through 10 years of stuff we’d accumulated — I still can’t believe we packed so much into an apartment with so few closets — and for most of that week the dining room table was our prime staging area.  We’d ferry stuff between the old apartment and the new, make boxes for giving away and boxes for keeping, and, in between, try to meet deadlines, and by the time evening rolled around, the thought of even slapping together a sandwich at home seemed like too much effort, so out we’d go.

Mostly we went to simple neighborhood places and mostly we went with notebooks and pencils to make new to-do lists for the following day.  Dinners were fun because a) we were together; and b) we were together in Paris, but I think we were all longing to be around our own table, a “think” Joshua confirmed the first afternoon we were in our new digs.

We were surrounded by endless cardboard boxes, the contractors were still hammering away in the kitchen, the oven hadn’t been delivered, the countertops were wrapped in plastic and precariously balanced on the not-nailed-down cupboards and the previous owner’s refrigerator was plugged in in the foyer. 

The place was a mess and my spirits were flagging fast.  I couldn’t imagine that we’d ever get sorted out before we had to fly back to New York and I was whining — lots.  And that’s when Joshua said, “Let’s get some stuff and make dinner.”  It seemed ridiculous at the moment, but he was so behind the idea that I went off on a shopping spree with him.

Late that night we liberated a spot of table for ourselves and sat down to a meal amid chaos and clutter with plates we found in a box marked “assiettes,” real flatware and flimsy plastic cups.

I think anything would have tasted good as a first supper, but this dinner seemed extra-good.  Here’s what we had:

  • Melon and Prosciutto
  • Watermelon Salad – watermelon cubes, halved cherry tomatoes, chunks of mozzarella and shredded basil, tossed with fleur de sel, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and spooned onto a bed of arugula
  • Bread from Poilane
  • Butter from Jean-Yves Bordier
  • White wine (I can’t remember what it was)
  • Boxed cookies (both of our neighborhood patisseries, Pierre Herme and Gerard Mulot, were closed for vacation)

Joshua was right: Eating home was just what we needed to do.  And making something to eat was really what I needed to do.  As soon as I got into the kitchen and started cutting the ingredients for the salad, tasting the vinaigrette for seasoning and arranging everything in the bowl we scavenged for and found, I was a changed woman, calmer for sure, but happier and more optimistic, too.  Cooking can be counted on to have this effect.

There was so little I could do to control what was going on around us.  There was no way to make the contractors work any faster than they worked, no way to make the cartons disappear, no way to snap my fingers and have the bathroom vanity instantly installed and no way to get BHV to deliver my oven immediately, but I could go into the kitchen and do what I know how to do — make dinner.

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it, but I’m glad Joshua did.

Dorie Greenspan

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