Take a Breath

ImageI’ve been working in the kitchen like a galley slave for the last few weeks – since before the holidays, actually, and it’s time for a parole.

Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking – every aspect of it: I love schlepping the four heavy grocery bags (“Don’t forget – we need six bottles of San Pellegrino”) through the slush-filled rivers at each corner on Broadway; I love the insistent bump of the grocery cart into my Achilles tendon during the holiday rush at Fairway; I love the cutting, the chopping, the blanching, the browning. Oh God, do I have to make another battuto? I have battuto nightmares with hostile little cubes of celery coming at me brandishing Wüsthofs. I’ve got to get out of the kitchen.

Do you know battuto, by the way? It’s the Italian version of a mirapoix – onion, celery and carrot are the basics; sometimes you add parsley and sometimes even a bit of pancetta – and you cut them into small dice. A battuto is the beginning to many a good meal, the first step in recipes from pasta sauces to osso buco. A good rule to remember is that it’s always twice the volume of onion to each other veg. i.e. a half cup onions; a quarter cup carrots; a quarter cup celery; quarter cup parsley. You can’t go wrong. Put it all in a hot pan with butter and oil (or lard) and you’re off to the races.

ImageWhere was I? Oh yes – get me out of the kitchen. Stop the music! Call a cease-fire! I’m cooked out. And restaurants are no good either. I’m done. I’m flat-out overfed at this point, that’s the problem; my pants are way too tight; I’m developing a waddle. Basta. Basta, Mikey. What I need to do is have little snacks instead of meals. A cracker with a sliver of good cheddar; a radish; a sip of water.

That’s how I need to eat now. Yeah. That sound you hear in the background is my wife, guffawing. It’s not a pretty sound.

“A radish?” she’s saying. “You’re going to eat a radish?”

“Well …”

“With a sip of water?”

“Well …”

“That’s beautiful, honey. I have so much respect for you – for your discipline. We should all take a lesson from you.”

I hate it when she gets sarcastic.


Michael Tucker is an actor and author whose third book is the recently published Family Meals: Coming Together to Care for an Aging Parent.   He writes about his love of food on his blog Notes from a Culinary Wasteland