For this prompt, we responded to three phrases, choosing any (or all) as a place to begin our writing. Sometimes this type of prompt simply opens up a window to an image or an idea. I always tell my participants to write toward whatever that image is.
A skinny cook
Chunky and delicious
Not getting any younger
Here’s what I wrote:
I never understood how well-known chefs could be skinny. People who love to prepare food, love to eat: that’s just a fact. I never trust a skinny cook or a dermatologist with wrinkles.
I love food. I love sautéing onions until they’re golden and caramelized, stirring risotto with a long wooden spoon until it begins to thicken, and that moment when I have just finished frosting a cake.
For me, food is a vehicle for creativity, a way to nourish my body and enjoy pleasure, or to connect with the seasons and Mama Earth. It is also a way to nurture others. In this way, I’m typically Italian. If you tell me you haven’t eaten all day, I am so distracted by what to feed you that I can’t concentrate on anything else you might say after that. And I prefer men and women who have meat on their bones (I’ve been wanting to fatten up Madonna for years now). I like the way Rubens and Michelangelo painted both men and women as strong, ripe, and creamy. I find skinny jeans uncomfortable to look at, and I don’t understand why some men want to bury their beautiful, muscular bodies under XXXL sweatshirts, or wear jeans that sag down to their knees; I think jeans should frame a nice, round culo. And I’m not interested in snuggling up to six-pack abs either. Who wants to cuddle with a washboard? Too hard.
Even so, I have my own body issues. A friend recently made me a birthday card. On the cover was a black and white nude self-portrait I took twenty-five years ago, and all I could think was, God, was I ever skinny. Too skinny. But I didn’t feel skinny then, and being in that body didn’t make me happier than I am today. I didn’t know how to cook back then, either. I had neither perfected my brownie recipe nor reinvented Indian meatloaf. I wasn’t even sure how to hard-boil an egg.
Today, I suppose I could benefit from portion control. I love the complex flavors arranged at a party buffet, but I have a difficult time filling my plate just once. Come to think of it, I refill my wine glass at parties a few times as well, and I rarely skip dessert at a restaurant. I am still working on becoming someone who savors less food, but not at the expense of letting go of the wonderful lifelong lesson I’m learning about this kind of love: spices, fresh herbs, slow roasting, braising, brining, basting, rolling, folding, and baking.
This thicker Italian frame isn’t what it used to be twenty-five years ago, but that skinny kid couldn’t create a meal that made others feel cared for. He couldn’t arrive with a cake, or make dinner and lemon mousse in a tiny efficiency kitchen for nine people and a baby. He couldn’t love the way I do now, with an oven, a sharp knife, and a few good pans.
He didn’t know how.
*ciccia is Italian for “chunky,” or more commonly, “baby fat.”