The kitchen is the most dangerous room in the house. Sure, you could conceivably drown in the bathroom, and I will leave hypothetical scenarios to your imagination. But that’s about it. It is the kitchen where true chaos can reign.
Knives—blunt ones—bounce off fruit and cut through thumbs; sharp ones require concentration and no distractions. The kitchen sink is the only one in the house without a drain hole. Turn away and it flows into flood mode. Then there is the stove—the crucible of fire. Even if it is not a gas stove, burns come with the territory; and it is so easy to forget about a pot of soup and let it either boil over, or worse yet boil down to some sort of elastic cement.
I remember once putting a large pot of lobster carcasses on very low heat to slowly reduce for what would be an intensely delicious stock, perfect to infuse a risotto or chowder. We came back a little later than expected. Well, to be frank, I totally forgot about it. We opened the door to a revolting smell of burnt shells. The old, heirloom white enamel pot was scorched and never recovered. It took weeks to rid the flat of the smell of a charnel house.
So the kitchen is the most dangerous room in the house. It demands vigilance. As we become comfortable with our tools, our implements for sawing and cutting, our fire-breathing stove, we unwind a little. The rhythm of cooking is something we look forward to. And just as we relax, enter the cat.
The cat is crazy. This is our third cat. Each lived its life to its fullest and, after a while, we got another. The house is not the same without one. There was a cat before I arrived. There is one now.
This one is nuts. She is black. We have found that short-haired black cats are friendlier. Apparently, a cat’s coat colour indicates which neurotransmitters are firing, and that affects behaviour. It has something to do with dopamine. Animal behaviour expert Temple Grandin agrees and that’s good enough for me. As well, I, with a low-level cat-hair allergy, am somehow not affected by black short-haired cats.
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So we have a small, black cat. A small quiet black cat, in the early morning, in a dark kitchen. Even with the lights on, it is easy to step back, smoosh a paw and hear a yowl fierce enough for me to drop the morning porridge.
Then there are her endearing predilections—investigating running tap water, swatting the pen that hangs on a string near the kitchen phone, slowly moving her food bowl from the corner into the middle of the kitchen, deciding that the kitchen rugs, specifically positioned to catch splatters, really need to be bundled into the corner.
A dog, it seems, would solve our problems. Dogs know the meaning of the word “sit” or “stay” or “get out of the kitchen.” Cats hear everything and know the meaning of nothing. As the video game Assassin’s Creed puts it, “Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.” Obviously, this was written for a cat.
When our first cat died, we looked at getting a dog. This was sort of an unspoken agreement between Celina and me. She had the cat. Then she got me. Then I could have a dog.
We went to look at poodles. They were beautiful. Gorgeous, full-size standard brown poodles from a respected local breeder. I looked one in the face and we knew right away who would be the alpha male. So we stay with cats.
This one also happens to be very cute. Like babies, cuteness goes a long way.
It has been a few months since this one entered our lives. I can say that she and I have reached an accommodation in the kitchen. If the cat’s bowl always has some food in it, I get to use the rest of the kitchen. So far she is training me well.
I have been mucking about with tofu recently, getting ideas from Deborah Madison’s book This Can’t be Tofu. The key seems to be to disguise it.
Drain firm tofu, cut it into squares, and fry them until golden on all sides. These are tasty added to a vegetable stir-fry or a tomato sauce. Soft or silken tofu is excellent in a dip.
Blend together a half-cup each of yogurt, soft tofu, and sour cream or mayonnaise, a tablespoon or two of good olive oil, a clove of garlic mashed with salt, several grindings of black pepper, a dash of cayenne and a tablespoon of your favourite fresh herbs—dill or basil are particularly good. Thin it out for salad dressing. Leave it thick for a dip.
So far, the cat isn’t interested.