Don’t clean your cookbook cabinet the day before your colonoscopy. Unless you have to, like I did today. The house painter is coming to paint our home’s interior, and to ease his labor, I removed heavy items, such as a dozen or two cookbooks and recipes, from the bottom of the china cabinet, where they have marinated for years.

The life stories these cookbooks tell. I salivated over the sassy, fatty cookbooks of my youth, the days of careless calories and no counting them: Paul Prudhomme, Bon Appétit collections, the tried-and-true Joy of Cooking, and comfort dinners from Good Housekeeping. I remembered fondly the women who gave me every tasty compilation by community leagues, churches, and garden clubs from San Francisco to Denver to Dallas to Atlanta. I winced at the diets from Weight Watchers, Paleo kitchens, Mediterranean and keto plans, and spring cleanse smoothie guides. I imagined the
years’-long fights between the Weber grilling guides and the vegan and vegetarian tomes—a bizarre Toy Story with battling books instead of figurines. The list goes on, including family favorites, tucked in an ancient recipe box, stained with butter and Karo syrup.

But I remember…the rich and all-night dinner parties with friends now gone but not forgotten. The thrill of discovering regional recipes and the joys of cooking with fresh herbs. The decadent desserts, midnight snacks and nightcaps, and meaty, sugary leftovers for breakfast.

And now it’s hard to remember who can’t eat nuts, or gluten, or dairy, or garlic, or onions, or nightshades, or red meat, or beans, or shellfish. And who can’t drink alcohol, caffeine, aspartame, sucrose, sucralose, carbonated beverages, or even water from the kitchen faucet.

Today I spoon neon-yellow pineapple Jell-O® from a blue-and-white bowl into my hungry mouth and wash it down with apple juice in a pint glass. I begin to crave my evening meal of hot chicken broth.

But for now, I’ll feed on the past, cooked up from the bottom of my china cabinet, a stew of decadence, excess, delight, wonder, regret, melded perspectives, and aged attitudes. I am the chief cook of my life, and a colonoscopy is merely the bottle washer.