by Amy Cotler
Three satisfies, inviting us to plunge in, while kindly reminding us of life’s impermanence, because soon there’ll be two, then one.
One summer afternoon in New England I ran out to our garden, arriving back with a scant handful of the first cherry tomatoes. Soon, three lazy, but colorful halves topped salads for my husband, daughter and me. Our eyes bounced from red to red orb before we pounced. Why is the odd number three our culinary queen? Two on a plate sit symmetrically sad while only one looks like a cherry on top.
We’re three too — my daughter Emma, husband Tommy and I. I’ve been lured in by that number again and again in life and in food. My sisters Joanna, Ellie and I. My Dad’s writing, Mom’s cooking and me at the point of the triangle, borrowing from both. Young Emma’s PBJ sandwich cut point to point into triangle halves, so pleasing on the plate. Or in my catering days, a cluster of canapés waiting patiently on my cater-waiter’s tray, ready to be served. Those three points of bread work in tandem with three primary ingredients. Like bread and flinty ham topped with mustard sprouts, the bread showing at the edges to express itself just a bit. Or a swirl of gravlax with crème fraîche, a dill sprig propped on top.