Words & Photographs by Olivia Rae James
Olivia Rae James learned from the best: her mom. Here, she talks family inspiration.
I grew up in the kitchen. It is here that my mom and I would spend hours upon hours. It was our comfort zone, our sacred place. Anything could be said in the kitchen, and when there was nothing, there was cooking.
My mom can do no wrong in the kitchen. She balks at recipes and embraces spontaneity. She lets ingredients speak for themselves, even for the most modest of dishes: roasted beets, purple and golden; cauliflower soup with a hint of truffle; pasta filled with basil from her garden. She has fed my family with gusto for longer than I can remember; my sister with her peculiar cravings (peanut butter on eggs?) and my dad who genuinely believed every dish was the best he’s ever had. Mindful of taste, health, color and origin, no detail went overlooked in my mom’s kitchen.
We cook for the ritual of it—the methodical chopping of onions and consequent teary eyes; the weight of a sturdy knife striking the butcher block as we watch crumbs form under the baguette; the hushed sounds of Nina Simone mingled with the steady murmur of the oven fan. These elements together, simple as they are, render us weak in the knees. We feel a purpose and a peace here unlike we do anywhere else. In the kitchen, we are content.
Whether we are cooking elbow-to-elbow or are separated by oceans, my mom and I continue to assume this shared energy in the kitchen. And now when I cook in my own kitchen, every eccentricity I possess or method I prefer feels like a warm salute to her.
Time spent in the kitchen should be cherished—not only as a means to our lifeblood, but as a detail of our everyday that graces us with sustenance and beauty. And in the end, the actual food is only a small part of that.