Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.

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Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Hairball: What to wear while you prepare

I often obsess about my appearance while cooking. It's a meta-experience, thinking of what I look like cooking while cooking. And while I have neither television show nor cookbook, I do have Hockeyman, who relies on me to produce fabulous meals while looking smashing. Just because we are long-married doesn't mean I get to fall into sloth. No way. To this end, I avoid unsightly bulges with a girdle. To ensure my look is, to quote Simon Doonan, "updated wench chic," I wear a Victoria's Secret push-up brassiere. Over all, like Nigella Lawson, one of my many cashmere twinsets. Nigella says she has around 100, at $300 a pop, but we know all girls count their sweaters. I have 103. And spattering tomato sauce over them is one of my favorite activities.

Here is Nigella, commenting on her cookwear of choice:

“I’m pretty bosomy with a very small waist, and if I wear something that’s not tight on the waist, I look like Mama Cass.”

Poor Mama Cass. Though it must be said that Nigella looks nothing like her. Nor, in fact, do I, though like Nigella I am bosomy, with a small waist. But never once have I allowed my Jane Russell build to stand in the way of the good meal.

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Those of us who like to cook generally protect our cashmere with simple bits of fabric called aprons. An apron may be yours for $7.99 at Ace Hardware. But if you are like me (and Nigella) you are short-waisted in addition to being bosomy, meaning aprons don't offer sufficient coverage where you need it--my aprons droop too low, with plenty of material around my thighs, which tend to be out of spattering range.

My wench cook outfit of choice is the sleeveless cotton t-shirt, preferably from Target. I have several of these numbers in a broad palette of grays and blacks. Most are stained. (Like the one I am wearing this minute--black, faded, permamently marked by something.) All are comfortable, cheap, and replaceable. When they become too awful to wear, I recycle them as rags. (Isn't that so pc and save-the-earth of me?)

Granted, my utilitarian sleeveless shirts offer little by way of tits-in-meals à la Giada de Laurentiis, but I try to console myself with the knowledge that I will never burn vulnerable anatomy. Instead, like my sexier sisters, shunning aprons or cook's whites, I am at increased risk of burning my arms, hands, and neck. Though again, like Nigella, I cannot bear "sleeves in food." I actually cannot bear having anything obscuring my wrists and hands while cooking. I remove both my wristwatch and otherwise-constant Ace support. Only my wedding band, a narrow round of white gold, stays on.

But suppose you do want to look nice while preparing sole en papillote, or think precautionary measures wise. What's the fashion-forward cooking female to do?

Williams Sonoma to the rescue with the "Summer Toile Apron," featured in the July 2007 "Southern Cooking" catalogue. Follow me to page eighty, where we are reassured that "Our flattering blue-and-white toile apron is charming attire for baking a summer peach cobbler or chatting with guests while putting the finishing touches on dinner. A delightful combination of down-to-earth practicality and vintage southern style..."

(Somebody wrote that copy. A person with an MFA from Iowa, or Northwestern. A person who comes home to a perfect apartment--all that discounted W-S merchandise, dontcha know--and pounds away miserably at her Great Novel. She drinks too much from her Reidel stemware and eats an entire Assorted Set of croissants (plain and chocolate!) herself. Sometimes she kills the pain by burning herself with her Monogrammed Steak Brand.)

(I know. I'm horrible.)

True, "delightful" and "charming" aren't as much fun as "sexy," "wench chic," or "hootchy," but at $48, the apron is a steal compared to Nigella's cashmeres. Because what you look like in the kitchen is just as important than what you're doing in there. Buy now!

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