Thursday, July 30, 2009

On Cooking

A friend recently told me if any cooking endeavor involved more than three minutes and a microwave, it was too much trouble. Fortunately, her husband is an enthusiastic and good cook, so my friend isn’t condemned to a life of Hot Pockets and Ramen noodles.

I cook primarily because I like to eat. Good food is one part of my larger enjoyment of life’s sensory pleasures. A great meal has something in common with a stunning vista, a beautiful piece of music and soft kisses from someone you love.

My own culinary journey began when I realized I couldn’t afford to eat out very often. However, even after I win the Powerball (I’m sure it’s inevitable), I’ll still cook. In fact, I’ll probably use my extra leisure time to tackle even more ambitious dishes.

Most nights I can be found banging around the kitchen with a glass of wine or beer nearby. Some nights it’s hard to find the energy after a long day at work, but once I get cooking—my day is soon forgotten.

Of course, sometimes I forget about my bad day because I’m so mad about whatever I’m trying to cook. My cooking technique involves a great deal of swearing.

The other night I was annoyed at myself for screwing up the timing of a meal…a very simple meal at that. I realized too late I should have plated up my salads before I put the (store-bought) gnocchi to boil. The gnocchi ended up over-cooked, of course.

As I stormed out of the kitchen, I glanced at the pile of dirty dishes I had created making tomato sauce, pre-packaged gnocchi and a salad. The kitchen looked like I had made a four-course meal for 10.

Why do I do this to myself? I thought.

This brings me to the other reason I cook—a sense of accomplishment. My day job mostly involves occupying a cubicle. When I leave at five o’clock, I can rarely see the fruits of my labor; when I can, it isn’t exactly inspiring.

Cooking is something I can do from start to finish in a manageable amount of time. If I screw up, it’s over relatively quickly. The meal is typically edible, and I can focus on what to do differently next time.

As my cooking skills have improved, the ratio of hits to misses has increased dramatically, along with a slight drop in profanity. There’s nothing like putting out a meal when I know I got everything just right.

I’m also lucky enough to have an appreciative audience for my cooking. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having E gush over something I’ve made. It makes me feel like I’m good at something. Even the over-cooked gnocchi was pretty good.

Here's a snapshot of one of my recent successes: a barbecue sauce-chicken-goat cheese pizza.

I didn't make the dough, but I did make my own barbecue sauce. At the rate I'm going, making my own dough may have to wait until I win the Powerball.

The sauce for this is actually a sweet-hot basting sauce, which is what most people think of as barbecue sauce. Stay tuned for my thoughts on making a basting sauce.


David said...

Sounds similar to my evolution as a cook. I realized I wanted to eat more than mac & cheese every night, which was all I graduated from college knowing how to make.

John said...

The other night I was pondering where my cooking skills would be if I had started much younger. I suppose we all need to start somewhere.

Good to hear from you.