So I did my first bachelor party...no no no I don’t mean I was scantily clad “dancing” in front of a throng of men in a hotel suite raining dollar bills...the typical celebration of the doomed’s, I mean the groom’s, last night of freedom.
This was not that lewd, male ritual that wives, fiancés, girlfriends and even jump-off chicks want their men to stay away from. In fact, most women I know would have begged their man to go, and even dressed them for and dropped them off at the bachelor party that I had the pleasure of doing for this was a cooking bachelor party.
”We’ve been joking that in your house the big dilemma will be ‘To Beef or Not to Beef’ since Michelle doesn’t eat red meat,” the host, John, teased during his introduction to the evening. “Which is why I invited Levita here tonight, to do a cooking lesson so we, but especially you, Kofi, could learn something that you can use at home with the Mrs.”
“I would like to start by having each of you say your name, for my sake, and a word of reflection about, insights on, or advice to Kofi about food, romance, love, and marriage...Who wants to go first?”
“My fiancé and I really enjoy cooking together. It is one of the most intimate things you can do with a person,” shared Tony, who is the most recently engaged of the four friends.
Later, in the midst of making a delicious orange glaze for the sweet potato dish, Tony shared that his fiancé is someone he grew up with, someone whose family went to church with his family. “Sometimes what you’re looking for has been right under your nose all along.”
“Well, I consider the kitchen my domain, and I don’t really want my wife in here with me...but I do see food as a way to feed a person’s spirit,” added John, the foodie and host, whose kitchen was a chef’s dream–two dish washers, an 8-burner Viking stove, two ovens, a sub-zero refrigerator, granite counter tops and an island that opens to guests in the family room, dining room and porch dining area. I can see why he’d want it all to himself.
The groom chimed in, “I knew things were serious with me and Michelle when I cooked a meal for her...I set up a table in my hallway and placed a gift under her chair. It was when I gave her a key to my house. What I was saying with the food and the key is ‘here, I am giving you access to all that I have.’”
O.K. I damn near lost my composure on that one...that was until, Arthur, perhaps the smoothest of the bunch, added the most insightful comment on food, romance, love, and marriage.
“I ain’t gonna lie...when I was in college and funds were limited, I cooked as a prelude to...yawl know what I’m talking about.”
“And just how far did the Ramen noodles get you, man?” John asked, cracking us all up.
“Something magical does happen when you cook for someone, but especially, when you do it with her,” I added. “Bonding and connection takes place. In the context of a family or a romantic relationship, when you feed someone, you are providing a potential source of healing.
What you prepare can set someone up for life and longevity or set her up for disease and degeneration...Treat meals like they are special, sacred even—a time to be present. Cook together often, set the table, light a candle, put out some fresh flowers, and eat from your finest dishes, like the new ones you’ll receive as a wedding gift. All of that will go a long long way...”
On that note, the men put on their aprons, went to their food stations and began their cooking assignments. John had chosen an extensive soul food menu, enough for each person to be responsible for two dishes. Arthur was on the vegan mac and cheese. John on the garlicky kale. Tony on the barbeque tofu. And Kofi on the corn bread.
Then, in pairs, Kofi and Tony prepared the orange glazed sweet potatoes. Arthur and John prepared a peach cobbler that tasted as good as grandma’s, without the eggs or butter. Arthur prepared the filling with sliced peaches that he left the skin. John prepared the perfect, homemade crust.
I tried hard to be a fly on the wall and stick to guiding these beautiful men through the preparation of the dishes. Together, we came up with some creative solutions like using a metal colander with holes instead of a sifter for the cornbread’s dry ingredients.
And when we didn’t have an egg substitute for the cornbread, Kofi suggested we use puréed pear since I had shared earlier that apple sauce is a great substitute for eggs in things like cookies, pancakes and cupcakes. His instinct worked like a charm. And in the absence of an actual rolling pin, I filled a bottle that was just emptied of refreshing, Italian soda with plain water, and John rolled away.
After he put the cobbler in the oven, he set the table on the outdoor porch, we joined hands and the groom said a heartfelt grace thanking God for all that had taken place that evening. The men fixed their plates and dined together.
Among other things, they reminisced about days at UVA and unforgettable moments since, debated about R. Kelly and talked about wedding planning.
“Listen closely, Tony, because you might learn something about why a destination wedding might be the way to go...there is a reason why you might not want to be uninvolved in the planning process,” John offered.
By the time I joined them at the table with a pitcher of my hibiscus tea, the recipe for which is a well-guarded secret, the groom’s plate was clean, and his friends’ plates were headed in the same direction. Each was proud of just how delicious his vegan soul food dish turned out.
I was witnessing (black) maleness at its finest...the sensuous way in which each man talked about food and love, the quiet power that each possessed, the competitiveness, but mostly creativity and camaraderie in the kitchen...There I go again losing my composure.
Levita is an educator, scholar and self-taught chef who shares recipes & narratives on her blog Vita’s Vegan Ventures about delicious, ethnic cuisine prepared without fish, meat, eggs or diary.
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