I leave for work on a Thursday morning on the 8 am train out of Woodside, bound for Babylon. Not the ruins of the ancient Mesopotamian city, now buried under modern day Iraq; the Babylon on Long Island. You can change there for the train to Montauk. I get off twenty minutes before the last stop, get picked up and driven to buy supplies and then back to the house to cook. In the morning, I don’t need to set an alarm, but I do. I get up to hear the birds, calling to each other. I sit on an old wooden bench outside the kitchen, and when it is time, I meet another car that takes me to the 6:01 train back to West Hampton. I drink a coffee, and then walk the dog. Feed the dog, and start breakfast. It can be anything, but it has always been oatmeal, huevos rancheros, or Eggs Benedict. The man of the house used to like buttermilk blueberry pancakes, but he hasn’t thought about them yet. It is early in the season. I wait to hear what is wanted. Breakfast is on a tray for one.
I open the fridge and think. Then drive myself to shop for lunch. It is four courses, plated. Sometimes an amuse bouche. Or an in between course of a sorbet, made from pears and lemons that won’t last another day. I have been wondering about what would happen with cantaloupe if I added a sugar syrup with sherry vinegar and vanilla bean. I have a genetic predisposition to consider a use for everything. Creativity comes, just because everything in the refrigerator is always on my mind. It is like the way you carry your letters with you from Scrabble, even when the game is over. You will be cursing the x and y, way after you have gone to bed, and then wake up at 3 A.M. thinking, “oxygen. I had, oxygen.”
One direction–the direction of the ocean–is the fish monger, the butcher, and the cheese shop. And Lidl. Which apparently, when it opened, was a problem for some people. They felt it didn’t fit. Lidl has the best olive oil for miles–it is $5.99–and parmigiano reggiano that has been properly handled. If I go the other direction, to Eastport, I get King Cullen. At King Cullen, the cashiers are friendly. They have good blueberries and Bob’s Red Mill.
My life is a schedule, at the moment. I have made it that way so that my feet have a direction and my hands and head, follow. I stop cooking, only when I can’t stand anymore. It is how I breathe.
My son calls, like the sun rises. His voice has the same low rumble as slow, distant thunder in summer. I try to listen to every word, but the truth is, I love the sound of it so much, that sometimes it is not possible. I get caught in the cadence.
I am back in Queens by Sunday, just after dark. I have leftovers in my bag from lunch. I had an ear of corn and soup, last night. When I came up from the subway, I bought chicken breast. My son was on the roof filming the span of 24 hours. On the phone he’d told me he had beef jerky and bananas for sustenance. “You don’t have to cook me dinner tonight. Mom. I mean, I am hungry, but I don’t want you to cook if you are tired.” I made the chicken with garlic, lime, and thyme, and finished it with butter and more lime to make a sauce. I packed it up with the corn and soup and carried it up the ladder to sit with him and listen to him talk.