A couple of well-meaning readers have recently inquired into the foundations of my relationship with food, or, more succinctly, the origins of this thing I call Orangette. As the following amply demonstrates, such seemingly harmless questions can be downright dangerous when combined with an afternoon of digging in the archives, both online and off. What follows comes to you straight from a tattered, sun-bleached sketchbook that holds my teenage writing—or, at least, the snippets of it that aren’t stashed in my parents’ freezer, which I once fervently believed was the only way to secure it for the ages.
Dear reader, I humbly present to you the story of how it all began, the story of how one verbose teenager in the wilds of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, found her way to the kitchen, as told in her own words.* I wrote this essay-cum-prose-poem, fittingly titled “Kitchen,” ten years ago, when I was 17 and fresh from my first edible epiphany. Please, handle with care.
*With long-overdue thanks and apologies to Frank O’Hara, Armistead Maupin, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, and Flannery O’Connor, in whose works I’d been thoroughly pickling myself when “Kitchen” was born.
From Gourmet, February 1996
¼ cup unsulfured molasses
¼ cup sour cream
½ stick unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp grated peeled fresh gingerroot
½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 medium firm-ripe pears
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 ½ teaspoons Cognac or other brandy
3 tablespoons heavy cream