Monday, April 4, 2011

To Cook or Not to Cook

I've realized something tonight. I will never be really great in the kitchen because I'll never be hungry enough to want to spend the time it takes to make a gourmet meal. I watched Julie & Julia at home with my mom tonight and enjoyed the movie, but the food definitely didn't turn me on the way it does the two protagonists... or their husbands. Watching them practically convulse over a chocolate fondue or braised duck left me scratching my head. Don't get me wrong. I love food. I really, truly love a great meal. I just don't want to have to cook it myself and I don't understand where the joy comes from. Watching Julie and Julia painstakingly prepare (including de-bone) a duck, stuff it, and then wrap it in a cheese cloth followed by some kind of blanket of pastry just stressed me out. Imagine if you burnt that? That's an afternoon of your life gone that you'll never get back that you spent cooking! Cooking! It may be an art, but what you make never gets hung on the wall, no, it just quickly turns to shit. Think about it.

Or maybe I'm just lazy. Whatever the case, I was hoping (sort of) to have some sudden life-changing moment of culinary inspiration after watching this film, but no, I'm going to scratch "become a world-renowned chef" off my (other) list of aspirations. Of course I still want to learn how to make the basics. I still have #38, "Prepare a five-course meal for friends" on my bucket list. And besides, everyone's got to eat. They should know how to feed themselves more than just bacon and eggs. Being dangerously close to my 30s, it's definitely time to be able to know more than just how to make breakfast for dinner.

So my sister-in-law is teaching me how to cook. Beginning of last month I asked her if she would teach me to make some simple meals. She learned when she moved out. Why I never really did is a question that remains unanswered... (unless we can sum it up by saying there was always a sushi shop not far from wherever I've lived, even in Merritt, B.C.)  I offered to teach her to drive standard in return. She declined the driving lessons because she would then be obliged to drive her husband's car and my brother has a, shall we say, less than stellar ride. She drives a nice Volvo. I can see the logic of not wanting to have to trade vehicles. She did, however, offer to teach me to cook for nothing. Sweet deal. So every Wednesday for the past several weeks, she's been coming over around 5 p.m. with cloves of garlic and recipes to make salad dressing from scratch (people do this in real life!) and my brothers come over and my parents are happy they don't have to cook and we sit around the dining room table and have a family meal. So far Denise and I have made:

1. Veggie lasagna (with oven-ready noodles. We didn't want to get too crazy right off the bat.)
2. Grilled salmon with tomato-avocado salsa and baby roast potatoes.
3. Chicken (the best chicken I've ever had, hands down. We improvised. No recipe.)
4. Chili.

So far, so good. The only dish I've tried to replicate on my own so far is the lasagna. Definitely wasn't as good as the first one. I think maybe I used too much parmesan cheese. Too salty. Haha, well, listen to me, going on about food. Tralala. But I am no foodie, that's for sure, and I make no pretenses about it. No desire to follow that trend. There's got to be a nice medium ground though, where I can feel competent in the kitchen and be able to feed myself (and possibly a party of friends) without freaking out or just dialing for take-out.

I do have a few friends who are foodies. They make pasta from scratch and spend hours, literally hours at their stoves, labouring away until late at night before they can sit down to their supper because what they've made could be served at a fine restaurant. I love being invited to eat at their homes. I always enjoy what's put before me. But I'm also happy I didn't have to make it myself or worry about how it got to look and taste the way it does. I don't need the joy of cooking, I just want to the competence of cooking.

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