As a cook, I appreciate being…appreciated, but even on one’s best days, sometimes people are distracted and the dinners and food they prepare are simply…eaten without comment, plus or minus. Such was last night, and while I had made the same damn thing the night before for a late dinner, I had actually improved upon it ever so slightly but was mostly met with my wife’s determined concentration… on her laptop.
Ordinarily it ain no thang but it is out of the ordinary for her to be so quiet and have no ready opinion about my efforts. Oh, like I said, it’s not a big thing, but…here I am blogging away about it. It’s not that I’m upset, but this entry is more about reflection on myself and why I cook.
Yeah, its for the recognition and appreciation. Can’t lie about it. It’s also for the challenge of taking things…items…and pulling them together to make something greater than their whole. It’s an effort to improve my craft, my familiarity with its elements, and…creating something new.
Its frustrating at times. I’m old now and my creative bend will be doing often what has already been tried before, and at times reinventing the wheel. Hmm, I’ll grill peaches and slather ricotta over them.
Cool. But done. Toasts with avocado and cream? PUH-lease. Paella with trout and almonds? I’m sure its old hat…though to be honest, that thought just occurred to me and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound untried.
Do I let this sway me? No, not in the least. Our daughter is a creative and successful artist and now a college professor where art is made…and shown. There is a measure of social interaction when it is brought out to the public at an opening, and there is certainly a good deal of interaction when she comes up with her concepts which is a direct result of her views and observations of the world which all gets ingested and spewed out in her work.
With food? It’s not just displayed, but it almost requires an audience at the table. The social component is immediately obvious, and not only that, there is immediate judgment as far as appearance, plating, and most importantly…taste.
The ‘art’ doesn’t last more than 30 minutes, so for the ‘creator’ the gratification is immediate. Is the meat cooked thoroughly? Is it seasoned properly? How do the colors on the plate work? And at some level, and this I hope to incorporate someday more…is there whimsy?
Whimsy can be planned or be accidental. It can be how the dish is named , be it ‘Spotted Dick’ or ‘Chocolate Thunder From Down Under’, both dishes to be found out there in the world. Sometimes its a play on the food and its image, most commonly elicited in cooking for children; pancakes with faces comes to mind. Or making a savory food look like Oreo cookies.
There is the fun of cooking. It’s like being a standup comic–you get the laugh or the subtlety but it may not make it as a classic through the ages like the Mona Lisa or Hoover Dam. This simply reflects the utter transitory nature of food because, as we all know, it all comes out of us from one place, whether its a grilled chateaubriand steak with shiitake mushroom sauce or Nabisco’s Wheat Thins with cheese whiz spread.
So here’s to having one’s efforts ignored, if only to put we cooks in our place to be reminded (as we should sometime) it’s just food.
Last night I made chorizo sliders, sautéed in a bit of olive oil and garnished with slow-sautéed shallots in a bit of butter. Get yourself a nice slider bun, put a small measure of whole mustard on it, layer the small slices of chorizo on top, then place the onions above. Shave a little manchego or Pecorino cheese over it no more than a dusting, and finally add a few sliced, piquant green olives.
Eat, enjoy, and poop later, and if you choose to make this, remember the moment. No one else may, or not always, but keep on cooking.