It was the theme of the March 2008 Essence magazine in which by the grace of God I ended up as one of the guys in the spread. The photo shoot was many months previous; awesome Chelsea photo studio/apartment with a gorgeous kitchen – the kind of dream spot I would love to acquire in my New York life. The topic, this concept of “cooking for love”; the obvious thought shifts to romantic interludes with a foreseeable result. However, the theme is broader than romance and/or seduction (more on that later) with results that are far more significant and long lasting that getting busy with some girl after you garnish the desert with powered sugar.

The act and purpose of cooking for love is so more than getting some love from a woman. I’ve always appreciated the concept of breaking bread with family and friends, which really should not be limited to holidays and funerals. In fact it should be a relatively common and casual experience. And for the urban modern extended family of friends – cooking and entertaining forges strong bonds that cannot really be achieved hanging out at the club/lounge or trolling through the city at the in-crowd restaurants. You have to be in someone’s home – no matter how small the apartment – and eat off their mix-matched plates, drink cheap wine from their double old-fashioned glasses, and hold plates while you eat since there is not a proper dinner table – and do this on the regular. That’s love!

A result of this approach to cooking for love is one my greatest experiences in recent memory. My mom was in town during a proper barbecue at the Acker household last summer – “proper” being not a BBQ with hamburgers and hot dogs – that’s a cook out; the menu consisted of spareribs, chicken, and I’m sure lamb; I had to modify the menu as items did not come together as planned; I think it was the sardines for the grill that didn’t make the shopping list. During the event, there was the fear that there was not enough food as the turnout was good – how do you turn people away at a barbecue? In fact everything was gone and it simply turned into a cocktail party. There were some hot ladies at the spot, which makes the cooking worthwhile as well as some cool dudes to hang with, but the supreme part of the party was having my mom with me – cooking.

She had been with me a few days prior and joined me as we shopped, prepped ingredients, and slow cooked the ribs (Kim Gant – yeah, dry rub ribs IS the method, sauce on the side). I don’t think Ma knew what to expect since she initially left a window open before the party started; that is she mentioned she would want to get back to my apartment before too late – say ’round 10pm so I brought an extra set of keys, but of course she help close down the party ’round 1am. At the party Ma served as my sous chef as well as aided friends with cocktails and ice.

It filled my heart with so much gratitude, love, and pleasure that it left a resonating memory in which I reflect on from time to time. To see my mom having a great time with my NYC family and friends made all the pre-production work and money worth it. It was all in her smile. And I knew that the day-to-day stuff she deals with at the office were thousands of miles away and nowhere near Brooklyn. She was happy; and of all the sacrifices she’s made for me to put that grin on her was the best. You see that is the essence; that is what cooking for love really is about. That smile.