My children know I've had a good day when they come home and smell garlic sizzling in olive oil. It's the aroma of our favourite meals, of a pasta sauce being constructed from scratch, of the possibility, however faint, that bread dough is rising on the counter.
I'm as happy as the butcher's dog when I've got all the burners heating and the alchemy of cooking taking place in my kitchen. There's often a glass of red wine nearby and music playing loudly.
I'm not a great cook but I am an enthusiastic one.
I cook best when I have hours to spend in the kitchen, when I've sourced fresh cheese and crusty breads and olives that drip down your chin when you bite them. I nibble as I cook. It's therapy, the kind other people can share without messy feelings getting involved.
When I'm sad or angry or simply need to feel as though I've accomplished something of value in my day, I cook. Take yeast, add warm water, flour, oil, salt, sugar, eggs and you're a magician. Emotions rise with the dough.
In the space of a couple of hours, your kitchen smells like love.
After a bad patch this fall, I needed comfort food. I went to my usual sources: The Joy of Cooking, Bonnie Stern's Essentials of Home Cooking, The New Chatelaine Cookbook and Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess.
I needed stews and soups and casseroles, hungered for corn bread and homemade pizza dough. There was black bean soup, soy meat chili and cottage cheese crepes.
I was a woman reeling out of control when I made a decision, sparked by mania and longing. I would cook all the foods of my childhood! I'd start a blog! It would be a tribute to my mother, a nod to my love of travel, a chance to share her recipes with the rest of the world!
It was an impossible task, doomed from the start by the reality of full-time employment, an absence of baking ability and the knowledge I'd never be half the cook my mother is.
And yet my favorite cookbook remained on my desk. What We Ate At 4 Teakwood (the former family home) is a handwritten compilation of my mother's recipes, illustrated with fanciful pictures of food and marked with the splatters of my various kitchens.
After the first version, with its pages pulling away from the binding, she produced a fresh copy, typed, with each page protected by plastic sleeves. I still prefer the first edition, although the homemade noodle page is hanging by a thread.
In the foreword my mother wrote:
"The foods of our childhood are special. Not because all mothers are gourmet cooks, but because children have fresh taste buds and voracious appetites. Often recipes are lost, forgotten or never written down. As the scribe of the family, you will now have a written record of some of our family's favorite dishes. This is not a cookbook but a rambling collection of recipes."
The Gloria project started with perogies, one of my happiest childhood memories. My daughter was on hand to offer moral support. We worked until we were sick of dough and flour and little balls of potato and cheese. We felt like we'd run a marathon instead of producing a few dozen wobbly perogies.
There was the chicken soup and the noodles, the crepes and the "authentic White House coleslaw." It is noted parenthetically that the White House in question was on Selkirk Avenue and not in Washington.
I set up the blog with the help of a clever young coworker. She said it would be easy as pie and it was, as I poured wine and proffered olives and smelly cheese while she did the work.
Eat and Run (lindorreynolds.blogspot.com) has been up and running for less than a week.
Interested parties can already find the perogy recipe online.
I don't know if I'll ever get around to stuffing a trout (or "truite farcie," according to the recipe) and I shudder at the thought of trying vinarterta.
But I'm thankful I've got those recipes written in my mother's hand, that on days when the world seems too hard to handle, I can retreat to the kitchen and consider the restorative power of homemade cinnamon buns.