Ease vs. Pride
“It’s always eating out with you, isn’t it? Why don’t you ever stay in and cook?”
A foodie friend of mine asked this recently, his IM window bristling with impatience, when I suggested we all go out for a nice, big dinner. He and his ladyfriend are the Master Chefs to my Novice Who Shouldn’t Be in the Kitchen, and their culinary opinion carries a lot of weight with me. So I asked myself, I asked: why do I like dining out so much? It’s expensive, it’s wasteful, it’s unhealthy. But, I realized, there’s one thing it’s not:
Cooking, for some of us, is work. The very acts that other foodies adore–picking out a recipe, buying the ingredients, prepping and cutting and cooking until what was once a pretty picture on paper is now a proud reality on the table–some of us unlucky folks abhor. We’re in it for the eating, and nothing else; cooking is the inconvenient part, the part we wish we could skip. And, hey, suddenly there’s a magical place where the food is prettier and tastier than what you could ever make, and for a low low price you can just sit there, sipping wine and eating bread, while other people do the hard part for you! It’s like a grown-up version of mom making supper!
But…there’s no pride in that.
As much as I love, love, love sitting at a softly-lit table and talking with the people dear to me, as much as I love, love, love an endless array of deliciousness brought to me on silver platters, as much as I love, love, love effortless eating…it is not, when it comes to food, a meaningful experience.
A while back, I cooked a ladyfriend some vodka penne. I made the sauce from scratch, scorched the bottom of it, put in slightly too much vodka so the pasta tasted sharp, and in general made a somewhat good but rather messy version of the Italian staple. Even longer ago I prepared risotto with spicy Italian sausage; I panicked constantly, called a more experienced friend twice, and in the end dumped in too much shredded Parmesan. In both cases, I was stressed from the time I turned on the stove ’til when I plated the food.
In both cases there were dishes and messes and all sorts of worry wracking my freak out-prone brain. But in the end, I was left grinning down at my plate, proud and happy beyond imagining. This here, I wanted to say, was made by none but mine own hand! I am creator, it is created; I am this kitchen’s GOD! And that feeling only sank in further with each happy bite.
Cooking your own food connects you to that food in a way that simply ordering it in a restaurant does not. It was you who chopped those onions, you who hovered over that wok, you who did everything! And then it’s you who eats it, with joy that lasts long after your plate is empty. Restaurants can leave this lingering happiness, too, but not for the same reason.
When I cook, I feel a meaning to my meal attainable only by preparing it myself.
I only hope that with practice I can experience that connection more often, with less drama and screwups along the way.
-Jim is feeling artsy today