August 8, 2011
Leslie Waugh is a copy editor at the Washington Post and a yoga teacher. She lives in Falls Church, Virginia, she writes, “with my husband, who is a big fan of food TV shows, and two cats, who, like me, are more fond of eating than cooking.”
A Letter to the Kitchen
By Leslie Waugh
I’m sorry we haven’t been getting along lately. We’ve grown apart, I know. But it’s me, really, not you. I’ve become too busy for you, too distracted with other things that are feeding me in different ways. I’ve been cheating on you with easy catches like the Whole Foods buffet. You might think that would be healthy, but I have brought home some unsavory characters. And so many things in the pantry have grown stale, stuffing up the space way past their sell-by dates. My guilt is bottomless, and I am heavy with shame. I know you require more than I have been able to give, so I wouldn’t blame you for abandoning me. Yet you are still there. Unchanging. Stoic. Practically goading me.
To say that I miss you would be a bit of a lie, because our relationship has always been fraught and one-sided. You’ve kept me at a distance, like a chemistry lab whose experiments I will never understand. You haven’t made it easy to understand you, and I feel as if I’ve had to do all the work. I have forced my ineptitude on you, humiliating myself (hello, 4-H contests) in trying to create magic with tools whose power I do not understand. You have not responded to my pleas to cooperate; you won’t yield the secrets of baking or help me figure out when to dig in and redouble my efforts or back off and save a dish from ruination. Perhaps I ask too much. Perhaps it is I who must change.
My impatience has not helped, I admit. And I am fickle. Once I extract a certain dish from you, I’m instantly bored with it. I’m even bored by the time it’s ready to eat, because it’s no longer a surprise. I know what it’s going to taste like, because I’ve smelled and seen its innards the whole way along. But instead of looking for a new thrill, I give in to my laziness and inertia. And, let’s face it, here’s the rub: You are the keeper of a very double-edged substance, food. You are the storehouse of life-sustaining staples but also of those that have become diet-demonized—anything white, for example—and you yourself are fickle about holding on to anything healthy. The clock is always ticking on fresh produce, meat and anything from a cow. The pressure to use these items on deadline becomes too much. But in deserting you, I’ve hurt myself more than you.
Can we make up? Will you take me back? I can change, but it will take time. And I might stray now and then in attempts to find longer-lasting footing with you. Let’s face it, you hardly notice my absence anyway, but for the lonely utensils, pots and pans, and the dust in the countertop corners. A hearth unstoked cannot survive, I know. And a death from neglect, even benign neglect, is still a death.
Can we look at each other with fresh eyes? I’ll try not to ask too much. I’ll try to respect your boundaries if you honor my limitations. After all, relationships thrive on compromise.
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