I'd just like to preface this: I am not a cook. Visions of sugarplums have never once danced in my head. I'm not entirely sure what a sugarplum is. To put it bluntly, I’m the poor soul who left out sugar from her pumpkin pie one Thanksgiving, a story that I don’t think I’ll ever live down.
But I have seen how the communal action of cooking brings people together in a unique way, in a wholesome, familial way. The process of preparing food is a beautiful thing. I credit Remy the Rat for my sagacious opinions regarding cooking.
During quarantine, I was staying with my dad in Charleston, South Carolina – home of fresh seafood, pecan pralines (that’s pEEcan prAYlines), and shrimp and grits with Paula Deen-esque amounts of butter. You know, healthy food. This particular trip home was different, however. All of my favorite restaurants and coffee shops were closed or offering take out only, so I decided to cook a nice dinner for the two of us at least twice per week.
Some weeks were better than others (I’ll admit there were some spaghetti nights), but I was able to try out several new recipes. You’ll be happy to know I remembered to add the sugar in my obligatory quarantine banana bread.
One recipe I tried out was brussels sprouts (hear me out) with gnocchi and brown butter, à la the lovely folks at New York Times Cooking. Please don’t be impressed, I found it while scrolling on Instagram. Making this dish entailed zesting a lemon and buying gnocchi, so you can imagine how gourmet I felt.
To round out the meal, I bought some fresh peel-and-eat shrimp at the local market, boiled with Old Bay crab seasoning. My dad, not exactly over the moon at the prospect of eating brussels sprouts, procured the ingredients to prepare his signature cornmeal-breaded fried okra. We poured up the iced tea, garnished with a lemon by yours truly, and enjoyed the meal and each other’s company. The brussels sprouts were delicious and not at all difficult to make; if you’re feeling adventurous, give them a whirl! The recipe link is attached here.
I suppose the message in this meandering story is to not take the action of cooking for granted. Whether it be a well-loved family dish that has been passed down for generations or a new recipe found unexpectedly on Instagram, preparing food is such a therapeutic and communal thing. And hey, you get some (hopefully) yummy food out of it, so it’s a win-win!