When it comes to cooking, I prefer to take Thomas Edison’s approach. That is, with every mistake, I know one more thing not to do.
For example, in the past few days I have learned:
- When slashing bread dough, don’t slash THAT deeply.
- When boiling shrimp, don’t boil THAT long.
- Meat loaf may be easy, but it is not quick.
- Red potatoes don’t bake the same way as russet potatoes
- Never send a hand mixer to do a Kitchenaid’s job
Nonetheless, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with recent dinners of shrimp scampi over pasta and mealoaf with cheese-infused potatoes. However, I have no idea how previous generations got along without a laptop in the kitchen, allowing quick resolution of “OHSHOOTIDON’THAVETHATINGREDIENT WHATCANISUBSTITUTEAHHHHH!” I like creating in the kitchen, but Rachel Ray I am not. Let’s not even bring up Julia Child.
I truly enjoy cooking and baking, and I guess you could say my New Years’ Resolution is to actually do both on a regular basis. David and I both are too happy to scrounge or order a pizza. Granted, both of us working 40+ hours a week doesn’t help. But a little planning goes a long way, and I hate to think of my husband forgoing real meals until I have “time” — like being a SAHM would actually give me that, hah!
2010 also gave a pretty darn good excuse not to cook, seeing how I destroyed the kitchen in February and didn’t have a stove/oven again until something like April. Not having running water in the room until May/late June was kind of a downer too. We did some meals in the microwave, but you can’t saute onions that way. The system perpetuated the tendency to just survive rather than create meals that we really enjoy. Modern life allows for too many substitutes that are deceptively filling and packaged as “healthy choices,” but we all know that nothing can touch the real thing. I’ve also noticed how much more relaxed I am in the evening if I get to create with my hands after squeezing my brain all day at work. Plus, there’s the simple satisfaction of putting something on the table and saying, “Oh yeah, I just whipped that up.” Even if just whipping it up involved 45 minutes of using way too many bowls, pans, and modifying the directions in near-disastrous ways.
I think it’s clear by now that I am not an incredibly gifted cook, but I know I could be a better one and enjoy it. And hobbies don’t get easier and faster unless you practice them, and frequently. So here’s my plan for 2011:
- Refuse to feel the pressure to always create brand new dishes. Nothing wrong with lemon pepper chicken or spaghetti.
- Plan two or three meals each week, and shop accordingly. None of this haphazard, “Well, what do we have in the house?” attitude.
- When possible, start tomorrow’s dinner tonight. That definitely means making sure meat is thawing in the fridge, and mixing up ingredients that can sit overnight (e.g. meatloaf).
- JUST ENJOY. David sweetly gave me a couple cooking classes at Sur La Table for Christmas (although he’ll definitely reap the benefits), and I can’t wait to pick them out and sign up. French pastry, sushi … can life get better? Time for some edible art!
So that’s the plan… here’s to fewer meals in front of the TV and more time enjoying real food!