Chicago goes through one of it's infamous winter cold spells. People hunker down indoors, blinds and curtains drawn shut to conserve heat. Outdoor excursions are reduced only to those considered absolutely necessary. Then the mercury rises and, like flowers that close at night opening each dawn, we draw our blinds, perhaps crack the windows a bit to allow in a dose of fresh air and murmur, in stalwart Midwestern fashion, "Thar wasn't so bad!"
I pulled the blinds up in my kitchen. I survey the view, one of the first things that drew me to this apartment. A jumble of rooftops mixed with, in this season, bare trees, so lush in the summer they render the homes along the streets they line invisible to me. Church steeples rise, in the older neighborhoods to the west the tallest structures in the area. Their Gothic lines remind me of our European sojourns. Further off the lights of the planes arriving and departing from O'Hare airport float above the horizon.
I turn and survey my Pullman style kitchen. A space of clean white shaker style cabinets and black stone counter tops. Our collections are displayed behind the glass fronts of the cabinets. The 1950's pottery bean pot, a wedding gift to my husband's parents, the short painted wood candle holders from my great grandmothers house. There are novelty vintage glasses, sold in their day filled with jelly and available for purchase at the local supermarket as a promotional gimmick. There are stacks of early 1960's era pottery dishes. A line of plates punctuate the space above the cabinets. A mixture of thrift shop finds, a couple that belonged to my grandmother and others, treasured mementos to us, culled from gift and antique shops or purchased at plaza souvenir stalls reminding us of the places we have been fortunate enough to visit.
The kitchen faces west. The afternoon sun slants in from it's off center winter post. Lasers read shiny disks in the c.d. player creating music and I begin to cook. A collection of cookbooks reside on a shelf behind one of the glass fronts. Sometimes they instruct, at other times they inspire, providing me with the ideas I use to experiment and invent. Some days I eschew them altogether. I have made some dishes many times before. At these times I cook by sense and rote memory.
Fresh vegetables, cans of beans and tomato paste and leftover chicken breasts are transformed into a simmering pot of chili. Chili powder purchased on a trip to Galveston adds spice to the brew. Ingredients including overripe bananas, flour and eggs, with the swirl of a wooden spoon become a bread which fills the apartment with it's scent as it bakes. I enjoy the sense of touch as I roll ground turkey, minced peppers and scallions into meatballs. I employ my senses, touch, taste, smell, as I sample the result of my labors, deciding to add a bit of this or that. I breath in the scents which help transform a house into a home and listen to the music as it wafts through the air.
I smile, my shoulders relax and I am tranquil, enjoying the task at hand.