Barton Cole wrote 1500 words every morning. Barton Cole is dead.
Barton was my high school best friend’s dad, a stalwart component of my teenage years. A former high-end chef, he was an actor, director, writer, and enthusiast of all sorts. He saw my wannabe-anorexic fear of food, and he taught me to love it instead. He taught me the beauty of a delicate flavor, and the confidence required for a soufflé (he said it was mostly about confidence). He gave me books to read, grammatical rules to follow, and a spoon to dip in the mayonnaise jar. He didn’t solve my issues with food, or inspire ME to write 1500 words a day, but he got me on my way. I didn’t learn from him how to be a great chef (I’m not); I learned the power and beauty of food.
While I can still hear his voice in my head, I will imagine he can hear my thoughts and read my words. I’ll picture him handing me another copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk & White, and gently suggesting I refresh my brain on the art of grammar. I’ll hear his disappointment when I refuse to limit my run-on sentences. His pride when I use a pithy word, or turn a phrase like he would. Mostly, I’ll think about food. I’ll share with you what I know. I know so much, and so little, about food. I won’t pretend I know all the answers, and you won’t look to me for perfection. Deal?
I’ll probably cry while I cook sometimes. For Barton, for me, for all of you. Because food is hard — affording it, picking it, making it, eating it — and sometimes we just want to give up and drink liquor instead. Or close our eyes and eat the same meal with no end. It's hard to deal with sometimes — wanting so badly for all to be beautiful and healthy, when it can't always be. Hating that every meal could not be perfected and shared. Sometimes we just need to eat something, anything, in order to make it through the day. That gets me sometimes. What about you? Do you ever hate food? Do you struggle to feed yourself, to connect with yourself?
Barton Cole is dead and gone, dead and gone. But you and me, we have to keep living. And living requires food. Good living requires beauty. I’d love for your help in bringing both to a more central part in my story. I will do my best to help you bring more of both into your life. If we cry a little (or a lot) along the way, or fail to cook, or fail to eat, that’s okay. I believe in you. I believe in me.