Oh man, those days when I don’t know what to cook are the living worst. Even worse are the days when I do want to cook but have no idea what. When my crazy ADD brain is in overdrive, standing in front of a stove is often the only thing that calms it down. But then when I find myself staring into a full fridge as though it’s the Sahara, it feels like my brain is a short-circuiting robot flailing his little robot arms in the air. Does… not…compute…
Whenever it gets that bad, I pull a floury book with a broken binding down from the shelf and cross my fingers for inspiration.
Cibo e Bello is this nerd scrapbook I started when I was in high school. It began on August 12, 2000, and I know this is the exact date because I dutifully wrote it in the upper right hand corner of the first page. School habits die hard.
It was my way of keeping track of the barrage of food information I was learning at the time. I had just started to get into cooking, and I was reading everything I could get my hands on at the time. Case in point:
I was learning, okay!? I’m not even showing you the pictures of Tyler Florenceand Rocco DiSpirito with “BABE” written above, because that’s just too much. Too, too much. Especially that now when either one is on TV I usually roll my eyes and change the channel.
In light of that embarrassing Rocco and Tyler revelation, for all those who are snickering- please explain to me in detail me how cool you were at sixteen (much, I’m sure) and I’ll reserve judgment for you if you reserve judgment for me. Let’s continue.
(Remember this one?)
The book is basically one huge food journey through the last ten or twelve years of my life. I can see how my tastes evolved from naïve to snotty to homesick to today. The early pages of the book have things like charts depicting the difference between red and white wines. (Oh, the ignorance of the underage) It moves on to learning the metric system when I lived in Ireland, foods that made me homesick (JIF! I wrote with longing in my heart) and every recipe I ripped out when we were newlyweds and I was obsessed with “keeping house”. On second thought, let’s not remind the Big Man of a time when I actually cleaned on a regular basis, or he might start demanding we live that life again.
Hands down, the most treasured pages of Cibo are at the back of the book, where I meticulously plan out every Thanksgiving dinner I’ve cooked since 2003. Each page is dedicated to one year, and I start with the guest list and move down to dividing out my cooking time. I have notes in the margins that say “ONE POUND PER HOUR” and daily breakdowns such as “Tuesday, 1pm, flight lands in Traverse City. Oryana for bird and produce. Wednesday, 4 pm: Brine!” To me those pages are living, scrawly proof of how connects my with the people I love. These are the pages I would rescue from a fire.
I’m almost out of room at the end of the book, and twice now I’ve started a new one to pick up where Cibo left off, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. The overly sentimental ties are just too strong. I know I’ll have to move into something at some point, since these Food and Wine clippings are starting to get out of hand, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I’ve got a picture of Gordon Ramsay suggestively holding a squash. It’s the little things, you know?