Saturday, March 26, 2011

Decisions and Cooking

Do you ever feel paralyzed by making decisions? Even the really little ones? Like there are just too many choices? Tom Petty sang that the future is wide open but maybe it's frighteningly wide open. At least that's how I feel lately.

I once stood in a Tesco in Prague and almost cried because I was overwhelmed by the whole thing. All the labels were in a foreign language, I had no idea where anything was, I didn't understand the money, certainly didn't speak the language, and wasn't sure what I was even doing there. Alone. In Prague. It is probably the closest I have ever come to having a panic attack. Well, until I took the bar exam.

(Aside: I always feel like one of those pretentious asshats whenever I tell Europe stories. "This time when I was in Prrraaaguuuee." like I'm some fantastic world traveler. (I wish I was.) I went there once, for 2 months in 2008. However, going to Europe and being enlightened as to the enormity of the world definitely sticks with you and shapes stories so forgive me for sounding pretentiously asshatty on occasion.) (Also: Tesco is basically the European WalMart, so envision that. HUGE store, lots of stuff, fluorescent lights.)

I had a really retarded adventure last night in trying to procure something to eat because I can NOT make my brain work the way I want it to. It involved driving up Geary, back tracking, driving up Noriega, across 19th, down Taraval, back to my house on Great Highway. I am having trouble figuring out a menu tonight that doesn't include the exact meal I served last weekend. I am having trouble making lists and sticking to things. I am stuck in neutral. I feel so dumb. Does that mean my qi is off? I don't know how to rectify it. A lot of introspection, probably, which I'm not really in the right frame of mind to do.

But there is one place I feel absolutely in control: in the kitchen. I KNOW how to move around a kitchen. Once I can decide on a menu that is. I know how to mix and chop and dice and sauté. I can blend and bake and roast. I'm not a fancy cook by any means. Though I suppose I could be if I tried. So I retreat back to there, to where I can be in control with just a little effort.

My favorite meal to make includes roasting things. A whole chicken, potatoes, carrots. And then making a caesar salad. The carrots I am especially proud of as I've recently perfected a spice blend that makes them taste ridiculously good. Completely flavorful and sweet without any sugar. I made that last weekend. It is so damn comforting I can't even tell you. I then took the chicken carcass and made stock. My friends laughed at this. "Why would you make soup? You know you can BUY soup for like a $1, right?" Yes, but not THIS soup.

I have a simple philosophy: food is good when it is made with love. With attention and affection and by someone who truly enjoys making it. I do that. I make as much as I can from scratch, employing cheats only when necessary (tonight I used store bought hummus for an appetizer). Also: use the best ingredients you can afford because it will also make everything exponentially better. Fresh everything. High quality cheese. Real cream, real butter (I will cut a bitch for ever even thinking a person should use margarine for anything ever). Cut your own lettuce. Even your salad dressing should be from scratch. It's really not hard. Sure, it takes some practice and some learning but it's really not hard. I promise. I swear to god nothing fulfills me like making a good meal for the people I adore. It's just so...basic. We need food to survive. We need nourishment. And somewhere in that base instinct to feed ourselves, when it is homey and wholesome, it is that much better. It can both nourish the body and the soul (god that's flipping cliche but you know it's true). Ever stood in a kitchen and noshed on homemade croutons at 3 a.m.? I have seen my friends devour bowls of them and it gives me such joy. I did that! I made them that happy!

As everything has been decidedly ridiculous inside my brain, I can somewhat shut it off, make lists that I can follow, understand the order and timing of things, and move around the kitchen agilely and cook. Tonight was this and this (modified) and roasted cauliflower and Michael made asparagus.

Sharing a meal with the people I enjoy to be around is truly a gift. The best gift. There was a change in dynamic tonight and it wasn't nearly as hysterical as last weekend but it was still a great time. (I am also exhausted after a 6 mile walk/hike/very little jogging. I completely underestimated how moving out of the gym and onto the actual road would be incredibly hard. There is much work to be done. Which is both daunting and thrilling.)

Beth said I would make some man very happy someday with my cooking. The truth is that it makes me very happy to make everyone else in my circle who I already love happy with my cooking.

And this is as sappy as I'm gonna be. Ever. Until I cook for you...


  1. Not ALL your friends made that comment about the soup!!!

  2. PS. I just saw your Label List off to the side. Interesting that Friends came in at 6, just ahead of Debauchery, and tied with baseball. At least we came in ahead of .BNBD & TV!