It’s been a while, I know. But life has been…well, it has been life. And sometimes that’s all you can say. But tonight, tonight I needed to cook. And now I need to write. By the way, this post will contain no recipes.
Cooking is about passion. Passion for food, for people, for cultures. Romantic passion, family passion, passion for friends and above it all, passion for life. Like most of us, I cook to feed myself and my family on a regular basis. But every now and then, my cooking is purely an expression of my passion. This is where tonight finds me.
I’m in a tiny town of 140 or so people. My home for the summer, a 32 foot toy hauler trailer, which sits on the lot of Normandy Kayak Rental which I co-own. This is my fourth summer in this little town I have grown to love and call home. Four years ago, when my friend Nikki Mitchell, opened the doors to the River Cafe, Normandy Kayak Rental set up shop right out in the parking lot. Her with her red and white umbrellas and the smell of smoked pork wafting through town. Us with our multi colored kayaks and bright red life jackets, across the parking lot on the town square.
That first summer Nikki and I, as well as our friend Kristin, spent many hours chopping and cooking and laughing, in order to prepare for the weekend. During the day I would run back and forth between schlepping kayaks and waiting tables. At night, I chopped. One night I chopped so much broccoli for Nikki’s signature Broccoli Salad, I dreamt Nikki had me cutting all of the trees in the Siberian Forrest into tiny little bite size pieces. I told her the story the next morning, and in her phone she changed my name to Kim Choppy. She had a way.
My friend Nikki passed away three weeks ago. It was not exactly unexpected. She fought pancreatic cancer for 31 months. But that doesn’t lessen the loss, ease the pain or fill the void. This little town will never be the same because of Nikki, and neither will I.
Everyone that knows Nikki has their own unique relationship. Rhonda and Nikki shared the love of flying. I came late to that party. But thanks to Nikki, I was able to experience why they love it so much. Susan shared a love for fly fishing, which again, brought so many of us together. And there is a multitude of people that share a love for music with Nikki.
Cooking. That was….that is, the passion I share with Nikki. We would cook, watch The Cooking Channel and talk about a different show that were on The Cooking Channel. She told me stories about restaurants and chefs, meals she’s been served as well as meals she prepared. We chopped and mixed and seasoned into a friendship I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I called her Mother, although she was only 10 years older than me. She called me Baby Moses….a story for another day.
I have many memories. But tonight, I kind of think Nikki was shaking her head watching me make my first cooking memory since her passing, solo.
A thirty-two foot camper has a two foot kitchen, and a three burner stove. And I needed to cook. There was a time I would have simply shot her a text and asked to use the cafe kitchen. But those days are over. So tonight, instead, I managed to bring new meaning to tail-gating…..yeah, that’s me, using the tailgate to one of my river trucks, as a prep station.
I stood in my tiny temporary kitchen, blanching heirloom tomatoes, because I had the bright idea to make homemade pasta sauce. And I fired up my good old Char-Broil Kettle Grill so I could grill squash and potatoes. It was crazy. But I needed to cook.
My adventure ended with a big pot of sauce for later in the week, fire roasted squash and potatoes for tomorrow, and a fresh, local dinner tonight.
It was a dinner Nikki would have loved. A simple, local grown organic salad and grilled squash and onions. Everything in our meal tonight was given to me by someone in this community. From a friend. Although I cooked, I was fed tonight by people that were brought into my life because of Nikki Mitchell.
I will miss so very much. But most of all, I will miss laughing in the kitchen with you Mother. I know, I know…”keep chopping Baby Moses. Keep chopping.”