The Butterfly Effect
Part 6: A person in your life
I have to confess that I sort of struggled with this one. My mind wandered through some of the usual suspects, like my mother, who of course nourished me throughout my upbringing; my aunt (her sister) for the amount of joy she puts into her cooking; my grandmother for her ability to walk into her kitchen with an expression of sheer wonder, as if she had never seen the room before, yet would turn out phenomenal meals in minutes flat; and my friends Anita and Kathleen, for their inspiring and exceptional organizational skills in the kitchen, as well as the quality of the food they each turn out consistently. All these people have inspired and influenced me, but in deeper retrospection, I became aware that I was overlooking the most obvious influence in my life, culinary and otherwise.
When DPaul and I met in 1992, we were diametric opposites. He had relocated five years previously with his family from Kentucky, living on a (now defunct) military base in the North Bay. He was a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, for the most part. Although I had just moved out West one year before, I had already been vegetarian for five years. (To be accurate, I still ate fish, though that did little to bridge the gap between us culturally.) Politics and poverty had pushed me deeper into the arms of vegetarianism at the time we met.
Over the years, we influenced each other. Yearning for the barbecue of his childhood, he made a facsimile for me with Bush’s baked beans (the vegetarian ones) and cornbread. I got him to try sushi, starting with unagi, which has basically a form of barbecue sauce on it, then pushing his boundaries. Well before I actually began eating meat again, I started cooking it for him on occasion, and ultimately I cast aside my own dietary restrictions.
I’ve always considered myself an adventurous eater — in spite or perhaps because of the vegetarianism, I’ve always sought out ethnic cuisines. And while on the one hand I’ve encouraged DPaul to try new and different things (he now is not only also a sushi addict, but also a fellow pepperhead), I in turn have incorporated his tastes, his thoughts and his feedback into everything I have cooked and eaten with him. We may not agree on everything, but we do on all the important stuff.
It has been said, sometimes in schmaltzy cards with pictures of kittens on them, that love is two souls not looking at each other, but facing the same direction. This has always been our philosophy, and over the years I feel that we have only grown closer together in perspective, and better aligned.
Today we celebrate our 13th anniversary — for those of you doing the math, it’s 13 years since we signed domestic partnership papers with the city of San Francisco; we have in fact been together over 14 years now. Dpaul has made me not just a better cook and a better diner, but a better person, and I look forward to countless years of continued improvement.
Thus concludes the Butterfly Effect series … whew! That was some serious homework. But I owe a debt of gratitude to Ilva at Lucullian Delights for tagging me on this one. It has been a fantastic experience, reflecting on and analyzing my own culinary history, reliving memories, savoring the past. If you’re just joining, don’t forget to go back and read the other installments:
Part 1, an ingredient: Basil
Part 2, a dish or recipe: CookExpress
Part 3, a meal: French Laundry
Part 4, a cookbook or other written work: The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
Part 5, a food "personality": Iron Chef