Thank you, Sam Sifton

Sam Sifton writes weekly for NY Times Cooking. Always a curation of great recipes, and sometimes a reflection of the moment. Today's column was called "Grief and Cooking". I cried reading the following paragraph, then again writing to him in thanks. 

Here is a segment of the column:

"Food plays a central role in our reaction to tragedy, to death and grieving. It’s why casseroles appear on the doorsteps and countertops of those experiencing it, why we feel the urge to roast chickens or assemble lasagnas when the news is grim. Food is comfort of a sort, and fuel as well, for anger and sorrow alike. We cook to provide for those we love and for ourselves. In the activity itself we strive to find relief, strength, resolve."

Here is my letter to Sam:

"I really appreciated your column today. I've barely been out of the kitchen. 

Last night was quesadillas with caramelized onions and pepperoni topped with pomegranate salsa and greek yogurt, with a side of honeycrisp apple slices. This morning (so far), egg casserole made with the eggs of my Rosie, Bella, and Pepper and tons of veg needing to go from the fridge. Tons of shredded extra sharp cheddar, of course. And a sheet pan soft sugar cookie bake. Comfort food at it's best. 

I'm not doing well. For about three years now, even pre-Covid, I've barely kept my world together. I'm an artist, cook (culinary artist), and teacher. All things that have not fared well recently. Top THAT with our terrifying climate change, ridiculous politics, abusive religions, anti-abortion legislation, and now the return to weekly shootings...I'm about to phone it in. 

I feel powerless. This morning I read Cori Bush's bio, and Sharice David's bios. Representatives in my neck of the woods. And I wondered if I could run, lead for change. What else is there to do but cast a vote when I can?

So I cook. It's tactile, engages all of my senses, and let's me exercise a fleeting sense of control if only for a moment. Intense baking doesn't quite work (sourdough seems like a decade ago); I'm too distracted and sad for much careful measuring. When I share my journey and love through cooking, friends and family are sated, smiling, and thankful. If only for a moment. 

I even get to clean up. Maybe strangely, I love washing the dishes with warm water and apple-scented soap. Again, it transports me and let's me check off a task even though I'd rather clean up our mess of a country. 

Thanks again. Time to try my hand at a crisp. Be well.

Josie Mai