Let me take you into my kitchen. Follow me.
In my hardwood-floored one bedroom there is a kitchen with two shelves. The shelves sit above an art deco tiled backsplash and a black countertop holding appliances. A red Mini Keurig. A little-used coffee grinder. A Cuisinart blender. A red KitchenAid: of course, a wedding present. A Cuisinart: also a wedding present. On the bottom shelf there are spices and vitamins. From Himalayan Pink Salt Crystals to Fish Oil capsules. On the top shelf are cookbooks.
Many cookbooks: The Joy of Cooking, The South Beach Diet, Bon Appétit Appetizers and Hors d’Oeuvres, Best Cupcakes Ever!, Gourmet Today, La Parilla, Chinese, and The Best of America’s Test Kitchen. From Williams-Sonoma there are hardback volumes: The Weeknight Cook, The Essentials of French Cooking, The Pasta Book, Thanksgiving, New Flavors For Chicken and Cooking for Friends.
Next to the cookbooks on the shelf there is a pile of Real Simple and Bon Appétit magazines from past subscription years. Several folders labeled “Thanksgiving” and “Recipes from Magazines,” mostly tear-outs from Real Simple, stack on top of the magazines.
All of this is my recipe stockpile. My wealth of cooking potentialities. These are things I could cook. I gathered these cookbooks while my wife Katie and I were still married. These cookbooks were gifts we received jointly or registered for in our wedding. I entered the relationship with only The South Beach Diet. Katie brought going in The Joy of Cooking and her mother’s Appetizers and Hors d’Oeuvres.
Together, Katie and I became a cooking machine. All of the jokes about lesbians are true, even as a bisexual queer I can (or rather, I impudently will) say this. We love herbal tea. We love talking about our feelings for hours. We love U-Hauling it. When you get two women together with the domestic gene we domestic out so hard it is crazy. Her friends used to call her “domesti-Katie.”
Katie and I made dinner together every night. When she started working at Vroman’s Bookstore I had dinner waiting for her every night on her return, unless I was drunk. I was drunk often. I used to be an alcoholic.
Katie and I tested our cooking expertise with homemade pasta, Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve meals, and lavish dinner parties. We had friends over for hors d’oeuvres from the cookbook every Monday night for RuPauls Drag Race. We hosted a reading series that we always made platters of finger food for. Crostini, stuffed mushrooms, bruschetta on a silver/plastic platter.
On October 15, 2012 I awoke to find Katie dead in the bed next to me with vomit caked around her mouth. She had committed suicide by taking my prescription medication. She left no note. I will never know why she did it. Whatever internal struggles she held she took to the grave with her. I know there were many. I know now from her friends that she was suicidal since high school.
Suicide is something lesbians love far more then herbal tea, sadly. And I weep for the fallen. As I have wept for my own wife many times. I light candles on my altar to our wedding pictures and her final funeral card. On the funeral card her face in a black net veil curves away from me, a wistful expression on her face. I see she is gone forever and with her the great glittering world the two of us held in our hands for such a short time. Four years. We were so happy for four years. Christmases, Thanksgivings, birthdays, vacations, a wedding, cooking experiments. And then it was over.
With Katie dead by suicide, our joint stash of cookbooks remains. They sit on my shelf, waiting for me to pull one down and whip up some cupcakes or an Ohio Shaker Lemon Pie. I lean more heavily towards the sweets now that she is gone. I live off of Trader Joe’s frozen risotto most of the time. Most of the time I don’t even cook dinner anymore, unless it is for an event.
I make sweet things for my boyfriend’s family or for parties. I make hors d’oeuvre spreads for my birthday parties every year. I make cupcakes for a performance art night. Every time I take down a cookbook I see a cockroach but I cannot and will not throw these cookbooks away.
Cockroaches live in these cookbooks. I see them scattering at night. Every once in a while I open a cookbook and see a roach crawl across it. I will never throw these cookbooks away though. They belonged to my dead wife and I when we were together.
These cookbooks symbolize the great and beautiful things my wife and I created together in collaboration. A legacy I do not wish to soon forget. Just as our food tumblr: http://lezcuisine.tumblr.com marks photos of everything we cooked and our Featherless reading series recalls an era in the Los Angeles literary community, Katie and I had a moment together that was strong and beautiful. I do not wish to cast that asunder by throwing away our cookbooks, however roach-infested they may be.
I will never throw away our cookbooks.
Besides, if I threw away everything the cockroaches in my apartment crawled on I would have precious little left. I can’t afford to replace everything the cockroaches have crawled on at one time or another. The KitchenAid, the Mini Keurig, the couch, my loofah. No. It’s just a cockroach. I can handle it. I live in Hollywood.
The cockroaches in Hollywood are thick, as are the parking tickets. That’s the tax I pay to live in a place where I can say I live in Hollywood. It’s sort of like having a mini-Keith Richards around all the time who stumbles out every once in a while, looks at me with bemused feelers and then scuttles away.
I have come to peace with my cockroaches. They live here too. They live in the cookbook legacy of my wife and I. I accept their presence as I accept her death, as an unfortunate eventuality that I now have to live with.
Let us always remember the fallen.