I enter the kitchen to a spiced earthy smell and steamy windows. At the stove, a tall, red-haired man is stirring a large pot.
“What’re you making, Daddy?” I ask.
“Applesauce. Wanna stir while I knead the bread?”
“Sure. But can I knead, too?” I try not to sound whiny, but kneading is my favorite part. After Dad goes through a few turns of the dough, we switch places. My hands are smaller, and since I’m nearly two feet shorter than he is, I have a hard time.
As I go back to stirring, I know the muscles in my arms will complain tomorrow, and I may not be able to use the monkey bars, but I am happy anyway. After he puts the dough back on the fridge to rise some more, he gives me instructions for the applesauce.
“Laura, you hold the jar while I spoon the sauce in, okay?”
“All right,” I say, careful not to let the hot apples burn my fingers.
When we have filled three jars I ask, “Why is there still some at the bottom of the pot?”
“Because I’m going to cook it down and make apple butter,” he says with a smile, “but you don’t have to eat any.”
I feel my eyes bulge. My tongue does a quick pass over my lips. Daddy knows apple butter is my favorite. “No!” I say. “I want some.”
And he wraps me in his arms where I can feel his warm, deep laugh coming up from his belly button.
We still commune in the kitchen, Daddy and I, absorbed in the sweetest smells and brightest colors in our small house. Spices, vinegars, oils, and expensive fish all come out from their cupboards to be arranged by my father’s fingers into something more beautiful to see and taste than they could ever dream of being on their own.
In my father’s kitchen, I learned to read, multiply, dance, hug, stand up straight, create, feel … and I’m just now learning to cook. In my father’s kitchen he makes magic.