My friend Anna has a cat named Monika. Monika, besides being Russian and in possession of her own passport, is small and plump, white with patches of brown and black, with the softest fur in the world. She would make an excellent rug.
But she also makes an excellent cat, a little uncharacteristic in her sociability, quite characteristic in the way she won’t let the puffball Easter chicks live, but has to pull their legs apart and strew the pieces across the floor without a fuss, without a word. The cat’s massacre gift.
This year for Easter, Anna and Monika and I cooked a feast. Monika’s way of helping was mostly to lick things she wasn’t supposed to – but also to sit on our laps when we were too tired to cook – and to guard the Easter chicks and eat them should they get out of line.
In the meantime, Anna and I spent the day cooking: roast lamb with garlic and fresh herbs, roast vegetables, garlicky haricot verts, three varieties of puff pastry tartlets (camembert and walnut / eggplant, caramelized onion and gorgonzola / spinach and feta), deviled eggs, Swedish ägghalvor (eggs with caviar), mango and red onion salad, Russian Easter brioche, white bean salad, red cabbage slaw, and sweet nut brittle for dessert.
There’s something quite soothing about spending the whole day in the kitchen. The way scents slowly build – freshly squeezed lemon and cut raw garlic, the first sizzle of meat in a pan, sweet yeast and the vinegar scent of dyeing Easter eggs. There wasn’t any hurry – we’d met early and even had a relaxed lunch of tea with camembert and fig jam on pumpernickel rounds before we started chopping.
We had timed everything perfectly, even congratulated ourselves on our impeccable timing – until Marco called and asked us if we were expecting guests at the old 7 or the new 7, which thoroughly confused us until we realized that it was daylight savings time. And then we had one hour less than we’d had before. The solution, of course, was to make mimosas. It’s never been my motto before, but at that moment, it seemed like a good motto to adopt. “I always say, when you don’t know what to do next, just make a mimosa,” I said. So we did. And it helped.
We spent the next two hours shelling eggs, glazing the tops of puff pastry triangles with egg, finishing up salad dressings, and turning Anna’s bedroom into a dining room. Guests started to arrive as we were putting the last of the hors d’oeuvres into the oven and tenting the lamb. We opened the first bottle of wine, and soon the apartment was full.
It never ceases to amaze me how food brings people together. Many of the guests around the table didn’t know each other when they sat down, but at least by the time we passed around Marco’s tiramisu and had delved deep into the whiskey, a few friendships had been forged.
“We should start a supper club,” Anna and I said, as the last bits of Easter dinner were scraped up from the makeshift bowls and plates – flowerpots for salad bowls, jam jars for cups, yogurt glasses for the tea lights.
You don’t need much. You don’t even need everything. Every time I cook for other people, every time we share a meal, I know that what you have is enough.