When I decided to become a better cook this year, a passage from Candace Bushnell's One Fifth Avenue resided in the back of my mind as a guiding epithet for my goal. For those of you who haven't read it, One Fifth Avenue is about the aspirational world of New York real estate. Characters with shabby apartments want to upgrade to a nicer residence and a better address, while the characters who already have that are looking to move up the real estate and social ladder. Bushnell's story follows the intertwined lives of the residents in one of the premiere (fictitious) apartment buildings in New York, One Fifth.
One of the characters, Schiffer Diamond, is an aging actress who's achieving her comeback in a TV series set in New York. The passage below occurs when Schiffer's on-and-off lover of previous years, Phillip Oakland, is going to her apartment for a homecooked dinner. It's her retort to Phillip that sticks out in my mind and has become my guiding sentiment.
He joined her in the kitchen, where she was placing cut-up pieces of lemon and onion into the cavity of a chicken. He perched on the top of the stepstool where he'd sat many times before, drinking red wine and watching her prepare her famous roast chicken. She made other things as well, like chili and potato salad and, in the summer, steamed clams and lobsters, but her roast chicken was, to his mind, legendary. The very first Sunday they'd spent together, years and years ago, she'd insisted on cooking a chicken in the tiny oven in the kitchenette of her hotel room. When he teased her about it, pointing out that knowing how to cook wasn't very women's lib-ish, she'd replied, "Even a fool ought to know how to feed himself."