on love & cooking

the eager players in the theatrics of my bacon alfredo lasagna

There are a few things I learned from my late Grammy Morton...

A few things I have kept with me as I've grown up and will someday pass along to children and grandchildren of my own, God willing.

These things are as follows:

1) There is an honorable way to do things, and a dishonorable way. Which will you choose?

2) Never say "hate" (a lesson from her own father). The word has become so bastardized over the years, used flippantly (I am thoroughly guilty of this) and without real consequence. We say "I hate that movie", "I hate tomatoes", "I hate her"... But do you really? It is such a strong and vile word when you think about what it really means. It is so very heavy with horror. And with so much true hatred in the world, why do we feed the beast and use the word so carelessly? It's better to like things less, or just to have a firm commitment to disliking something than to hate. 

3) Cooking, and feeding people, is love. 


Now that's more like it. There we have direct opposition to #2.


She never outright said that, mind you. But growing up, that was how she rolled. 

Dinners at my grandma's meant you better come with an empty stomach and your guilt-shield raised. Because if for some reason you didn't eat everything on your plate you were instantly met with the crushing blow: "Oh, you didn't like it?"

It used to drive me crazy. I didn't see the love in it at all. All I saw was a woman who should have been born Jewish for the amount of food related guilt she could pile on to a meal. It was practically a side dish in our family. 

We used to call her Estelle. 

But I get it now. 

And though I've never taken it as a personal attack on myself or my food if someone doesn't eat every damn morsel, I appreciate the heart of it: 

Food is love.

And cooking a meal to share with the people you love makes that tangible. 


You've read at length about the Camaraderie Feasts that occur here in Portland, a city so dedicated to its worship of good food and drink we've erected temples on every block (i.e. restaurants, food carts, coffee chops, breweries, wineries, distilleries, bakeries, etc.)

(Seriously, how I ended up here in this like-minded place is nothing short of an act of God... But that's an upcoming post of its own)


Two years ago when I quit my job at the restaurant, I found myself without proper work for about two months. Money was tight so going to worship at any of our temples wasn't really in the cards. So I decided to buckle down and get creative. 

I started cooking.

Now to back up a little, I was never much of a cook. When I lived with Brigette, she was the one who dominated the kitchen and I did my part by cleaning up (how many home-manicures did I ruin doing dishes by hand? Let's not talk about that, it's still too painful). 

When she moved back to California, Michull became the one with the chef hat in my life (not really - he mostly wore a greasy, cooking oil-stained Old Style hat). But little did either of them know, I was taking copious mental notes. 
the hat... and a god awful, back-in-the-day version of michull

I made an attempt at cooking a fancy meal for Jared's 23rd birthday that turned out well enough... Even if the chicken was done before the rice and the cream sauce was a little thin - it's the thought that counts, right?

But I kept plugging away at it. And at the time, Jared was a willing test subject. Feeding him half a bottle of wine over the course of the evening probably helped a little, too.

Soon though, I was getting better. I was getting good (sorry, shameless horn-tooting). When we had a big dinner one night over at Fortland (the god-foresaken house where Dean, Robin, Michull and Jared lived for a while), I decided to take on what was to become my favorite dish to make: risotto.

The results didn't suck.

No sir, they didn't suck at all.

Flash to many more nights at the stove. My domesticity was reaching fever pitch and no one was complaining, least of all me (and least of all Jared, who was at the time still my number one guinea pig). When he and Shamoo moved into their current apartment, one of the first things he told me about it was how big the kitchen was and that it was basically all mine (a promise that in spite of everything has remained in tact, thank heavens) (I'm going to have to do a post on my miniscule kitchen workspace one of these days - you all are in need of a good laugh). 

But my favorite part about cooking (besides having Jared and Shamoo there to clean up after me and/or peel garlic for me)?

Sharing it with the people I love and hearing the little yum yum noises escape between bites. Or during bites (careful, please don't choke just to stroke my ego). Or watching a certain firefighter overheat with joy and have to roll up his pant legs, inverting himself against the wall get the blood back to his head (you laugh, but I've seen it happen more than once - the best time was actually when Michull made dry-aged beef, Brigette made this roasted potato-cheesy-devil thing and I don't think I made anything at all... Jared ended up practically comatose and called off work on account of being too full and happy to move). 

if you're curious, this is what that looks like

Something happens when people come together around food. The smoldering light in people's eyes that may have been slowly dimmed after a long day is stoked and at the sight of a plateful of lasagna, comes a-blazin'! Smiles, laughter, silent prayers, giving thanks, passing plates, pouring another glass... These are the highlights of my life!

 And though I realized long ago - how happy and perfect and yes, close to God even, it made me feel to be settled around a table with the people I love most in the world - it was never a flame that burned so close to my heart before I was the one with the wooden spoon, a cast iron pot and a pile of ingredients just itching to be transformed.


Every meal is a celebration. 

Every meal is family time. 

Every meal becomes our own little communion, breaking bread together, raising a glass, remembering the sweet potato stews that came before, the flat iron steaks that are yet to come, and the Camaraderie that will always be found around our dinner table. 



  1. Agreed on all sides. I love to cook and I really love dishes that look pretty on the plate. Kev always laughs at me when I arrange things a certain way or pick a plate that 'coordinates' with the dish, but it makes me happy. Also, I think I would have liked Grammy.

  2. this might be the best post you have ever made. i am not being hyberbolic. i got chills. <3