Posted March 8, 2013 at 6:08 pm

I think it happened around 2 a.m. one night. I was up late, baking dried cherry-chocolate chip cookies, the television was on in the adjacent room, the volume muted.  I glanced over to the moving images twenty feet away and – my lucky night – West Side Story was on.  It’s something different – experiencing those classic musicals — when you’ve been raised on them yourself, actually performing in them, breathing the stage, day in, day out.  At fourteen, there just isn’t anything more euphoric than dancing and singing with a crowd of other teenage enthusiasts!   And – as a young person – when you’ve lived that for years and then you see it *out there* — so far away from your current life – your heart aches a little. I guess it’s supposed to.  You simply miss that magical time.

But I digress.  I pulled my hands out of the sticky dough, washed and dried them, and walked over.  I stood ten inches for the screen.  I turned the volume up – just a little, just enough; my infant daughter was sleeping upstairs. West Side Story, for me, is beauty in every way imaginable.  The dancing, the songs – it’s all perfect. This particular scene, though – the one where Tony is singing, “Something’s Coming” – had always, especially when I saw it for the first time as a teenager, struck me as a little…incorrect.  Something wasn’t right.  I don’t mean to diminish in any way the genius and brilliance we have in the Sondheim/ Bernstein/Robbins masterpiece, but seeing it again in that moment, so late at night, again inspired the question, “Why? Why does it seem as if there is something here that doesn’t fit?”

And then I remembered:  I’d only learned later in life that some of the actors’ voices had been dubbed.  And that’s what I was picking up, then and now.  Isn’t that funny how we can just tell that something is  false, isn’t a genuine * part* of a person?  Something in their voice, a gesture, even sometimes a flair of personality gives it away.  Kids know that stuff immediately – I’m sure we’re all born with it.  It’s shocking to realize that my daughter might witness something in me — a facial expression or a laugh, for example — that is in any way overdone or insincere and recognize it as untrue, not authentically “mom.”   Talk about keeping you on your toes!

And it made me think, standing there in my favorite apron covered with a decade of stains and spots: cooking is the exact same way. If there’s something inauthentic in what you are preparing or how you’re preparing it – a knowing compromise, a dish you never wanted to make in the first place –it shows, believe it or not.  And of course the opposite is true: if it’s cooked with genuine effort, no matter how simple or amateur the effort, it will taste like someone cared.

Life is short. If you love to cook, do it. Every person you touch with a fully present, pure and authentic plate will remember it forever. And you will have changed their lives for the better.  Isn’t that what we’re all here for?