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  • Writer's pictureMarcia Seligson

"Tell Me What You Eat..."

"...and I'll tell you what you are." Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin from Philosophy of Taste

For most of my adult life, since I moved away from my original home and have had my own kitchen, I’ve loved to cook. I’ve prepared intricate meals just for myself and complex dishes for dinner parties. Rarely would I have considered having pot-luck events, unless I was entertaining more than twenty-five guests, all close friends who would usually understand my outrageous requests. I’d ask, “Melanie, would you please bring the osso buco for twenty-five?” They never refused but I did notice my parties were getting smaller each month.


When I was single, I would invite a current or hopeful boyfriend for a romantic, candlelit dinner. An obvious plea for love.  I would pour over Julia Child’s recipes, never fearful of the difficulties or weird ingredients (who knew what saffron was in those years?) And always a gorgeous dessert built around layers of sugar and probably a tower of dark chocolate to entice him to escalate our relationship. Sometimes it worked.


I would even prepare special meals for my dog, which she devoured with the same mindless passion she had for Gainesburgers. With maternal joy, I would watch her eat.


Living in New York, I once took a Chinese cooking class at the upper west side apartment of a renowned Asian chef.  We spent the first morning traversing the downtown markets, stocking our baskets with esoteric vegetables I’d never seen or pronounced before, then stir-frying them in an enormous wok in her surprisingly tiny kitchen. Two of the students had written cookbooks which was intimidating to me but nonetheless I had a splendid time and continue today to prepare Chinese food if it’s a simple hodge-podge of stuff living in my frig. I don’t enjoy all the chopping, but then again, I also don’t need a recipe.


Living in LA, when I married Tom, I had a gorgeous kitchen and did all the cooking, for us two, or for me alone, and for all dinner events. I worked at home; he was gone most days visiting his clients and cooking was a happy break from writing.  One summer we were on a bike trip in Italy and spent a day in Bologna, attending a cooking class given by two famous sister chefs. We all helped prepare the classic Bolognese dinner and Tom bounced around the kitchen, delighted. I was startled to see him so engaged, in fact I was rather annoyed at the sudden energy he had for cooking, and told him so, afterward. He volunteered to cook a fabulous feast when we returned home. 


It took a month for him to put this project together, but he even invited a few close friends to share his evening at the grill.  It turned out to be a rather big deal, with him consulting cookbooks and shopping for the veal chops, potatoes, asparagus and cake from Gelsons, our fancy local grocery.  He engaged our dear housekeeper to come to the event and help him do everything from preparation to clean-up. I did nothing at all.


My kitchen happiness continued for several years.  I often prepared Thanksgiving, our Passover seder, dinner parties for our active social lives.  But during the Covid early years, when we were sequestered at home most nights, we either had food delivered from local restaurants or bless my transformed Tom, we cooked together. In fact, it was surprising fun. Life was so confined then, with an undercoating of fear, that talking about what sandwiches we would order for dinner or what was lurking in our freezer gave us some relief and contentment.  We never went out to restaurants, had a tiny pod of friends that we would visit once a week for homemade ribs or local Chinese food delivery.  Or we saw our two neighbor pals who would trudge down to the beach with a fold-up table, folding chairs and chardonnay while we carried the cheeses, salami and crackers. We even brought our dogs.  Dinner on the beach at sunset seemed tranquil and safe.


During that dismal Covid period while we cooked together, Tom became interested–or shall I say obsessed–with buying new kitchen toys.  A sous vide cooker, an air fryer, an indoor smokeless grill, a sandwich maker. A few more that I can’t remember now. I told him Jeff Bezos was going to show up unannounced at our home one day to thank him for keeping Amazon in business. I also insisted that I wouldn’t learn any of these devices, he would be responsible for everything cooked in them. He agreed and has kept his word.


So, what happened? Why, since the pandemic, have I lost my interest in cooking after all these decades? Now, of course, we can go to restaurants, almost always with friends, several times a week. When pals come to our home occasionally, we order take-out food. When my women’s group of five come over, very rarely, I buy roasted chickens from CostCo and make a Caesar salad. When we have our periodic singing parties, a few times a year, I invade the deli, buy sandwiches, pasta salad and reams of cookies. That’s it.


I have a manila folder on the kitchen table, behind the tv, in which live about 40 recipes clipped from the NY Times or printed from online websites.  I’ve used about 8 or them. Crock pot chicken with mushrooms and peppers; turkey meatloaf; pea soup; chili; wok shrimp. A few more. Every couple of weeks I look through the folder and decide that most of the recipes have too many ingredients. Or if I must buy something special for the meatballs that I don’t already have in my crowded pantry, or an unpronounceable ingredient purchased just for this recipe, I usually won’t do it.


Passover is potluck, Jon brings his remarkable brisket and Tom and I make matzo balls, but the chicken soup is fresh from the deli, not homemade.  Evenings at home are often for leftovers, as are lunches if we’re home. Breakfasts are for yogurt and fresh fruit salad which I deign to make a few times a week. I think I’m too tired to cook at the end of a work and exercise day. I’d much rather lie on our bed reading my beloved NY Times and watching MSNBC. Or, quite simply, I just can’t drum up any excitement for cooking. Neither can Tom, even with all his toys. Occasionally, we skip dinner altogether. Or I just have a lemon popsicle.  I don’t know what happened to my one-time verve, but it’s pretty well gone. And that’s fine with me.


However, I just read a recipe while I was eating CostoCo chicken soup for lunch. It was for Ina Garten’s Tuscan white bean soup with pancetta. I adore all the ingredients, I’m kind of a bean freak. And this uses fabulous cannellini beans. And who doesn’t relish pancetta?  It also has onions, leeks, carrots and more. Doesn’t it sound perfect? I may actually cook it one of these days.

MY MOTHER WOULD HATE THIS BOOK is now available in hardcover, paperback & eBook on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or order through your local bookstore.

Check out my website and blog for stories and more:

“Marcia Seligson is one of the funniest, most original, and irreverent people I know, and her book carries all those qualities. She can make anything funny, from a Peloton bike to a 40-hour brisket cookery. And she can be touching, deep, and bracingly honest. My advice to readers is make sure you have unbroken time ahead when you pick up this book. Each time I did, intending to read for ten minutes, an hour went by before I looked up. And I’d laughed out loud at least twice.” Sara Davidson, Writer NY Times bestseller Loose Change, Head writer for Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman  

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