We do a lot of hosting at our house, and that means a lot of cooking for me. I don’t particularly like cooking, but apparently I’m not half bad at it. Rather, I am half bad at it but the half that’s not completely burnt, over-boiled, or otherwise wasted due to negligence usually tastes pretty good, I’m told.
I always joke that most husbands, when they get in the door, call out ‘Honey, I”m home!’ My husband will walk in and automatically call out “Babe, what’s burning?”
Actually, that’s not a joke at all. He says that every single time he comes in the house. Of course, with the fire alarm blasting (mine speaks English and French: FIRE! FEU! BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. FIRE! FEU! BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. And sometimes CARBON MONOXIDE! MONOXYDE DE CARBONE! BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.) and the kids fighting over the chance to stand on a chair with the broomstick (which we keep against the wall for this exact purpose) and stab the darn thing into silence on it’s elusive sweet spot (HUSH MODE ACTIVATED. MODE HUSH ACTIVÉ), there is no denying what I’ve been up to. Here’s another joke, but not: How do you know when it’s dinner time at my house?
But I digress…
It’s not entirely accurate that I don’t like cooking. It’s true that I’d rather be… dunno… writing, reading, hiking, not cooking etc. but I like cooking better than, say, washing dishes or bringing the trash cans in from the curb. Cooking is a chore but not the worst chore. The part I really don’t like is cleaning. Cooking means cleaning; it’s inevitable. And when you cook in a mad, hyperfocused frenzy like I do, the mess gets bigger and bigger throughout the process until it almost takes over the counter entirely., and sometimes the floor. Peelings, wrappers, dirty dishes… I hate them all. I can cook a four course meal (soup, sides, salads– yes, all plural– and main) in under two hours but the kitchen is positively ravaged when I’m done.
I never make desert, though. Guests are responsible for bringing desert, or else I cut up fruit after I serve the main course when things have calmed down a bit. I almost never bake. I hate it, and I am terrible at it. When you bake you need to be so careful about measuring and having just the right ingredient and other dull and unnecessarily uptight details. And it makes so much more mess. Not worth it.
When I cook it’s a largely spontaneous experience and always experimental, like an art piece. I know roughly what I’m making because I shopped for it that morning and it’s in the fridge waiting. But I never know exactly whether the ground beef is going to be meatballs, patties, bolognaise sauce, or lasagna until I start cooking. Herbed? Sweet n’ sour? You just never know. I might consult a recipe for inspiration, but then I always revert to whatever I think is more fitting or (let’s be honest) whatever method will result in fewer dirty pans. I have a lot of spices, and I’ve developed a feel for how to make them my own, and how much I can tweak a recipe before it turns the corner from home or exciting to meh.
Last week I was on the meds while cooking. I’d had a lot to do that day and cooking was just one of the items on the agenda, albeit a large item. I started cooking earlier than I normally would, which is maybe evidence of the medication serving it’s intended purpose. The meds were still in full effect and my appetite was pretty suppressed.
All of a sudden I realized that I had no idea what spices to use in the dish I was making. I scanned my spice rack, waiting for the right ones to pop out at me as they usually do, but they all looked the same– bland. I had to really stop and think about it in a logical fashion; What might taste good in this meat? Cinnamon? No that’s Middle Eastern and not what I’m going for. Garlic? Well yes, obviously but… oregano? Yes, that sounds Italian.. I think I’m going for ‘Italian’…
It may not sound like a big deal, but the experience was it was kind of freaky and unsettling for me. I didn’t have any precedent for this kind of feeling, and I was unsure of how to handle it at first. Imagine trying to paint a ladybug, looking at a palette of paint colours and not having any point of reference for which puddle to dip your brush into. You know it should be obvious, but the answer is somehow eluding you, like in a dream.
Well, I’ve been cooking dinners for over a decade now and my inference, if not my instinct, kicked in. I know ladybugs are red, and so I dipped my brush into the puddle labeled ‘red’. I made the food. It wasn’t artistic, but it was good, they tell me. Essentially, it was formulaic, like baking.
What an unexpected side effect for ADD / ADHD medication; Regular function might be impaired due to lack of appetite. More accurately, it was a side effect of a side effect. I wonder what other side of side effects I’m experiencing that I haven’t yet noticed. Sometimes I wonder if there are any effects at all.
Before I sign off, I want to include another story about food and my husband, just to redeem his reputation in case you think, based on this post, that he is overly harsh or critical.
When we were engaged, and this was way back before I became the gourmet chef that I am today, it was pumpkin season, and I was taken with the notion of making pumpkin soup. Working from my gut, I brought the pumpkin home, baked it, peeled it, pureed it, and spiced it, and then served it to my fiancee and a friend of mine for dinner that night. The soup was horrible and not at all what I’d intended. I couldn’t eat it and neither could my friend. But my darling man tasted it, said “It’s not that bad, maybe I’ll just put some humus in it.” Yes, he ate the whole bowl with humus in it. And that is why I love him.
Notice: No ladybugs were harmed or ingested in the writing of this blog post or ever, really, by the author, to the best of her knowledge.