For the past 179 days since my husband Chip passed away, I…
I have been seeing Sam Sifton for years in full view and disclosure to my husband, Chip. Every morning, Sam appears in my email with temptations of elegant charcuterie boards, outrageous breakfasts, and sweets that could tempt even a die-hard dieter.
Who is Sam Sifton?
Who is Sam Sifton? You need to know. Sam Sifton is the food editor at the New York Times, previously the paper’s National Editor. He is slightly younger than I am, but who cares? Sam stole my heart with receipts so simple, I knew I could do it. He infused culinary bliss into my marriage and built Chip’s skills into the ultimate sous’ chef. No Recipe Wednesday was sheer happiness designing our tastes and flavors from Sam’s list of ingredients.
Every Friday, I would look at the week’s recipes and print out the culinary challenges that spoke to me….and Chip. Then, I would lay them out on the counter while Chip was making pizza, and we would decide what we would tackle on Saturday night.
Sometimes we took a little liberty and changed it up; other times, we searched the Capital District for a specific spice or vegetable. It was an actual labor of love.
So now, when I see the headline in my inbox from NYT Cooking, I am saddened to the core. I cannot open it. I cannot experience the joy of a recipe begging me to take a look, prepare it as is, or make it my own. So instead, I talk to Sam and ask him for intervention, inspiration, or maybe the strength to give it a go. I have not cooked since Chip died, literally. I tried when the kids were home on Thanksgiving, and it was a failure.
Cooking is a dance
I once wrote that cooking with Chip was like a dance the way we moved about in the kitchen, with The Rippington’s playing and the smell of love cooking. That is what it was, love—talking, experimenting, tasting as we went. It takes two, so his absence makes it impossible to carry on. It was never about the food.
I have thought of taking a cooking class, but we did that together so many times. How could I possibly experience that alone? I toyed with going to Italy to hole up in Tuscany at a cooking school. It is impossible without Chip, the best sous chef.
Are you interested in giving it a try?
You can do this. If you can read and have a soul, you can cook. Baking is another story, and my hat is off to Melissa Clark from NYT Cooking. Melissa is a food writer and author. I am certainly not saying that people who bake do not have souls, but they are a little more analytical than the rest of us.
Here are just a few of our favorites:
- Chocolate Stout Cake with Coffee Glaze
- Sheet Pan Roasted Fish with Sweet Peppers
- Butternut Squash Pasta with Bacon and Parmesan
- Maple-Walnut Blondies
Were you tempted to give it a go? I knew you would.
Why am I telling you about Sam?
Because life is short, and it is a gift meant to enjoy. If you get hit by the Madison Avenue bus, was it worth it not to use butter in that recipe? No. Eat with your whole heart and soul and enjoy it with people you love. Unfortunately, my culinary inspiration is no longer here in the kitchen, but he will forever remain in my heart. I swear sometimes I hear his voice.
My love of cooking may or may not return. I struggle for sure, and I long to listen to some Chuck Mangione and revel in a great bottle of wine while laughing so freely and deeply.
So, Sam, I must say goodbye for now. I sometimes peek at your email and quickly close it. I hope to return to you one day. You will always be welcome in my home.
People who don’t know me well have asked me if I am still cooking. Not. Even. Close.