I’m making Chicken Parmesan. The smells wafting their way about my kitchen are enough to make me want to renounce my Canadian citizenship and head straight for some more exotic land. First, I work on the Tomato Sauce which cries out to be christened in some glamorously melodic language. Plebian, mundane, sadly English ‘Tomato Sauce’ doesn’t capture the sultry beauty of it. I’ve splurged and bought my first can of really wonderful tomatoes. They hail from Italy. Look at how pretty they are. I like the cans so much, I could see myself lining a part of my cabinet with them were not my cabinets lined already with other things I think are pretty.
When I opened these tomatoes, I felt a bit like an eager child. I’d always wondered about these lovely, mysterious cans, but they always seemed like tomatoes for another, more prosperous day. Tomatoes for another girl. But today they belong to me and as I gaze into the can’s rich redness, I see with my own eyes that these are indeed special tomatoes. They are small and pear-ish and hold their shape beautifully. A subtle bouquet of basil rises up to greet me in all its sublime freshness. They are the farthest thing from the pulverized President’s Choice mash that normally features so prominently in my cooking. I didn’t know canned tomatoes could be so lovely.
And then, as though these otherworldly globes were not enough for the procurement of culinary ecstasy, I follow the instructions to learn that I must then add these:
And other lovely things. I feel nearly fulfilled just sitting here in my kitchen, smelling it all melding, slowly, simmeringly. I almost don’t need to eat it, the aroma is so captivating. I smell the licoricey basil, perhaps first and foremost. If the ingredients have layered themselves, basil reigns, heady at the top. I love basil and I never wash my hands after cutting it into its thin, pungent strips because I know I can then carry that smell with me as I live out the next portion of my day, cupping my hands against my face, breathing in deeply as I wait in my near-perpetual perch in the driver’s seat of my car for various schools to dismiss various children. Yes, I always err on the side of adding more basil. I smell the tangy balsamic vinegar and the fresh parsley and the garlic. I close my eyes briefly and believe in my heart that I am bellisima and that I live here:
Surely this rain and this Canadian persona are just a figment of my imagination.