Wednesday, November 20, 2013
At work, my office is across the hall from the copier room, and just down the hall from the department's kitchenette and bathrooms. Each day, everybody in the building passes by my door at least once.
There aren't many convenient places to eat nearby, so most people bring lunch from home. With a microwave, a coffee maker, a toaster oven and a full-size refrigerator, our well-equipped kitchenette allows for food preparation that goes beyond the usual office lunch. But whatever someone decides to cook back there, I'm always the first one to get a whiff of it.
Throughout the day, I get to share in the experience of everyone's breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack, whether it's Pop-Tarts, Lean Cuisine, chow mein or garlic bread. I love it when someone brews a fresh pot of strong coffee. One of my co-workers is Punjabi - her lunches are redolent with spices so powerful I often wonder if the memo I fold into an envelope will carry the scent of garam masala to the distant addressee.
My co-worker Susan has a long commute, and to save time, she makes her breakfast on her morning break. She's on an earlier shift than I am, so just about the time I arrive and log into my computer, she's in the back, making toast.
There's nothing like the smell of toast first thing in the morning to make your mouth water, even if you did have breakfast at home. I couldn't help saying, "Wow, that smells good!" the first couple of weeks I started working here.
Now sometimes Susan offers, before she starts her breakfast, "Would you like a piece of toast?" and then she'll bring me a slice, spread with good butter.
"I feel bad," she says, "if I'm making you hungry, I feel I should share." One lunchtime she shared sweet potato Tater Tots she crisped up in the toaster oven.
I try to reciprocate. The last time I made fresh bread at home, I brought in a few slices for her. "Oh, you're such a good cook!" she said. "I wish I could cook, but I can't. I just make easy things."
This morning, she asked me, "Do you like sunflower seed butter?" I'd never had it before, so as I checked my morning email, she brought me two slices of wholegrain toast, slathered with creamy sunflower seed butter.
Such a simple thing, a piece of toast, warm and fragrant, slathered with nut butter. Smooth and salty, it has an herbal nut-like taste and an unctuous mouthfeel with just a little fine grit. I licked the oil off my fingers when I finished, and I felt good about starting my day.
Susan says she's not a cook, but she has mastered the art that all good cooks aspire to - the gift of sustenance.