Since we don’t have an oven on our school bus, I try to cook at other people’s houses as much as possible. Every now and then, when we are parked at a friend’s house my family and I descend upon their kitchen, filling up their fridge (ours is tiny) and trading off cooking meals.
I like cooking most when the kitchen is full and you bump into or slide around your fellow cooks and yell, “Who took my spatula?” or “Where’s the garlic I just minced?” But sometimes, my eyes pop open when the sky is turning purple-gray and I leave everyone sleeping in Jubilee and sneak into a strange and quiet kitchen.
If the kitchens are still new to me, I tiptoe into pantries, pull open fridge doors so slowly the breaking of the suction doesn’t pop too loud, and slide drawers out as if I were demonstrating the smooth glide on a game show. Eventually, I have a good idea of what I have to work with.
At the Turners in Combine, a pantry full of food, healthy and in bulk. At Stephen’s in Austin, who had just moved in the week before we arrived, random silverware, couscous, wheat pasta, organic peanut butter, and peach ice cream.
My eyes still sticky shut, I squint at their cookbooks, rewrite their recipes to fit what I remember about my old recipes or the ingredients on hand. I choose the quietest utensils, measure ingredients with my eyeball, crack eggs so gently I am surprised when it plops into the bowl.
With the sun just pouring in the window, I think of my family, silent in their bunks, light spilling onto their dreamy faces, while I am mixing up yums for later.
I smile, always, at sugar and eggs, or sugar and butter, or sugar and cream cheese or sugar and . . . well, you get the idea.
I place the treat carefully in the oven, setting an internal timer, sneak back into the bus and into the bed beside my husband, who rolls over sleepily, kisses me and licks his lips.
“Where you been, Sweee-T?”
Grinning, I stick a sugary finger in his mouth, glad that the baking time is fifty minutes.