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Judith Moore

  • We tend to think sexual intercourse, momentarily joining two bodies, is the most physically intimate human act. Preparing meals for another person, in its own way, is more intimate, so much so that I sometimes wonder that we dare eat what strangers feed us. Bare hands rub and finger the cabbage and carrots and raw meat. Sweat on your palms, so slight that not even you feel it, carries our body salts and other castoffs into everything you touch. Skin flakes so small you'd need a microscope to see them drift off your hands and arms and face, down onto the dinner's ingredients. Eight-legged skin mites, for whom our shed skin is a perpetual feast, ride atop these skin flakes, munching and defecating and copulating and giving birth and dying. Breath and entire kingdoms of submicrosopic creatures alive in exhalations scatter and make camp across the ingredients' surfaces. The foods you prepare, together with these outfalls, cross the threshold of a guest's mouth (which in the case of most guests you would never consider kissing, other than lightly, on the lips). All this then enters the digestive tract ...

  • Everything we own tells too much about us.

  • From the first day she nursed as if she knew I would not offer enough. She nursed hastily, brutally, as if she suspected my body was a continent that any moment famine would overtake, where streams evaporated, locusts chittered, buzzards' shadows tarred barren hills.

  • More than thrift spurred me some summers to fill jars with pickles, fruit, and relishes. I was not the only one. You could walk down our alley and through open windows see bare-armed women sweating in kitchens, muscles popping up as they lifted hot jars out of the canning kettle, and you could smell the sharp vinegar and sweet fruit. ... You wanted to make something beautiful that would last. To retrieve something enduring from a hot day otherwise lost to children's ravenous need and many small failures. You wanted to save something. ... My jars of pickled beets had about them such a stained-glass-window ecclesiastic radiance that I used to say I wouldn't be surprised to find creatures from a crèche scene rise up, gather bundles, and walk out of the jar. ... You were not just making pickles or jam, you were making a memory. You were canning days that otherwise got lost. When winter's blossom-sized flakes drifted down on bare trees and you put pickles out onto the table or spread peach jam across a muffin, you were opening a photograph album. You were eating memory.

Judith Moore, U.S. writer, editor

(1940 - 2006)