All photos/art by Matt Kalinowski
Our Best Cook, Nori Odi, is preparing Christmas cookies. Her industrious kitchen in Greenfield, New Hampshire, is filled with the aroma of rich maple.
Nori lives here with her husband, David Gilmore, better known as “Rags.” Rags is a software engineer, a career that Nori once shared. But now it’s all about food, although the science is never far behind.
She compares recipes to computer programs, conversations to “deep stacks”–a high-tech term that basically refers to a common way in which data are stored (the deeper the more complex)–and, for her purpose, the complexity of dialogue. And of her version of food.
The 600-some cookbooks on her floor-to-ceiling shelves contain just about every nationality and style of cuisine. “I read and read and read,” she says when asked how she learned to cook, for instance, Moroccan food. The next day it might be Scottish or Asian. It’s all deep stacks, branches of the same tree.
For many years, her friends have encouraged her to start a restaurant or become a caterer. The closest she’s come is selling her cookies at the local farmer’s market. “I barely make enough to cover expenses, but I love doing it,” she says, rolling out logs of dough, wrapping them carefully, and popping them into the fridge.
Nori buys King Arthur flour by the bucket, has five turntables loaded with exotic spices (she can expound at length on the differences among cinnamons: Chinese, Vietnamese, Ceylon, and Indonesian), and stores of dark grade B maple syrup. She buys pecans from Missouri, the ones she thinks are most flavorful. On the surface, food is simple, but fed into Nori’s mind, it falls into deep stacks.
Nori faces the mountain and the sun as she works. For Christmas, she makes a wide array of sweets. It’s hard to pick favorites, she concedes, but here’s one criterion: “I have to like the cookies myself. I like to imagine people biting into my cookies and closing their eyes in pleasure!” No problem.