Walls and fences and gates isolate lakefront homes in most neighborhoods of Florida. Not so in “The Friendly City” of Frostproof. The view out my kitchen window expands across five front yards and four driveways, reaching north a half-mile up Mullinsville Road as it cuts between the cattle pasture and the orange grove. Behind me, the kitchen island frames a wall of sliding glass doors and windows opening out to four-and-a-half-mile long Lake Reedy, unencumbered by fences, or boathouses. I track passing clouds by observing their shadows on the lake surface. On a cloudless day, a rare event in the summertime, I might be tempted to wear sunglasses in the house.
We do not take this beauty—the wide-open space, the views of water and sky and groves—for granted, not now during our time of quarantine, not ever. I give thanks and show gratitude by cooking. I do not paint; the plate is my canvas.
Cooking is collaboration, with other cooks, with old family recipes, herbs from the garden, vegetables from the farm stand, the dredges of wine left from the last dinner, deep-diving into freezer and pantry. I read food blogs and columns, restaurant menus and reviews, and watch the occasional podcast if it captures my attention. Cookbooks are my favorite mystery novels, historical romances, botany textbooks, and cultural touchstones. Words and pictures and food are my salvation.
I test recipes, making changes based on what is at hand–seeking the perfection and malleability of the “no-recipe recipe.” I offer up my findings. Feel free to tweak and change and share down the chain to other cooks, other kitchens. In the meantime, I chop vegetables on my kitchen island, gazing at the lake, watching the coming storm move across the water.