society of botanical artists

By Veronika Mabardy

Writing lives inside me like in a house with several rooms. In each of them: one language. The words that get into my body start to look for their deeper meaning in each of the three rooms where I like to sit and write.

 Cooking reminds me the place where, as a kid, I used to sit and do my homework. In French the work cuisine refers to the place where ones cooks, the kitchen, but also the art of cooking, of nourishing, of ravishing the one that is invited to eat.

I learned how to read in the kitchen. On the table, while my mother was cooking. This is where I still like to come and write. Between the laundry and a tea. Cooking – says my body (while my head is screaming: cliché!) – is a women matter.

The kitchen is an intimate place. A place to cocoon, to snuggle down.A place to talk about what has happened during the day, and where, homework done, one has time to dream.  Mummy attentive.  With everything safe it is possible to stray into imaginary places (according to my dictionary ‘to cook up’ in English means ‘invent’).  Returning when dinner is ready, it is the hour to lay the table.  But in colloquial French, cuisinerquelqu’unmeans to talk to someone to the point of torturing them into a confession. I confess that it is just that in this exercise of writing, to track down the truth, not that which lies outside, the dictats and imposed religions, not those of the text books; the truth from within, which makes the body know that this phrase, this word, this image, resonates, produces silence, a change in state, a movement.

There you are that is all I have to say about cooking/the kitchen, and I will stop there, if my mother tongue, Flemish, does not come to remind me that for cuisine we say keuken (cooking), for cuisiner we say koken (to cook), which also has the meaning ‘to boil’. Het bloedkookt: make the blood boil.  It isn’t the same, but I’m happy with that too. It is that, the warming of blood, the sensation when mounting a horse, taking hold of the reins if you don’t want to fall off onto the ground. Intimate, therefore, this story of writing, on the corner of the oilcloth, but dangerous as well, hectic, unbridled.

Cuisiner, therefore.To cook.But in English, the language I love the best (it brings together the two others and which suits rock’n’roll the best) ‘to cook’ gives me a different sentiment, very gentle and playful, something simmering. ‘What’s cooking?’ What are you simmering?  Here one leaves the arena of food and one considers how to incubate an egg. To heat up the ingredients, without stirring too much, to be patient and leave enough time before lifting the lid from the saucepan. I write therefore I nurture/nest: Within my privacy I am protected, I do not feel happy until I have cast out my creation/work, until I have mounted my horse, I go until my blood boils and I leave a surprise to simmer for my guests seated at my table.  There is no recipe. I must pay attention, and from time to time, taste. Having said all this, I am now cooked.

Veronika Mabardy

(Le Coin bleu, Brussels, January 2014)