In Other Words: Cooking up a storm
By all rights, I shouldn’t call myself a cook. Cooks, by my standards, are those who sweat over hot stoves, creating sumptuous dishes, the names of which I can’t always pronounce. Cooks are committed souls, who fawn over a potato’s potential, and who think that a set of knives are as exquisite a gift as a precious gem. Personally, I’d opt for the gem. Knives scare me, and I’m convinced that if I dared to dice an onion, I might end up with one less digit
It wasn’t always this way. Back a few years, I was an avid cook. I could whip up an impromptu meal at a moment’s notice, and be applauded for my efforts. I could produce a soufflé that was so high, guests would strain their necks looking up. My pan-seared halibut over lemony zucchini noodles and shallots was legendary. I was no slouch in the cooking department. I baked. Braised. Sautéed. Simmered. I even wore an apron. Oh, yes, those were the good old days when I took it all seriously, and lavished my husband with such loving prandial attention, that he never went hungry. Then he died, and my cooking acumen died along with him.
But now, life has taken a sudden turn, and we who are sequestered at home during the pandemic have discovered that food plays a large part in our ability to function and be well. As a result, I have taken a flight into Foodie-ville. I am proud to say, I am now, yet again, revisiting the room which was for so long off-limits: the kitchen. And, even though my “company” these days consists of only me. I have become, if not a cook, then a full-fledged foodie. I am carrying out this role with remarkable results
Just last night, I asked myself (I have also taken up conversing with myself) what I’d like to have for dinner. No longer satisfied with PB&J sandwiches, or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, I decided to get real, and utilize actual appliances and utensils. I cut up a pullet with such dexterity, even Julia Child would be awed. I prepared a three-lettuce salad with homemade dressing, and, I am proud to say, my poppyseed muffins were not store-bought. So, there I sat at my candlelit table (ambiance is everything) asking the question diners often ask when eating alone: “Are you nuts?” And I answered: “Probably,” but hey, if I can’t leave the house, the least I can do is stay home and luxuriate with a home-cooked meal.
Food, in fact, has become the central motivating factor in my life. I awaken each morning and plan my menu. I go to sleep each night fantasizing over incredible edibles. Cookbooks are my nightly reading material. I use terms such as mirepoix and know what it means. I can discuss cassoulet with my friend Fred, and I understand bouquet garni as well as any French cook. My way around a cutting board is astonishingly sexy. I talk the culinary talk, and I walk the culinary walk.
So, while life has become somewhat daunting, and even though I have not visited a restaurant for over four months, and my daily amusement is trekking out to my mailbox, I am thriving, and even living well.
As for my groceries, I have them delivered by a guy named Jesse, who himself is a fastidious cook, and who shops with utmost enthusiasm and care.
Jesse can pick produce like no one else, and, when I ask him to please fetch me a bunch of fresh basil for my pasta pesto, he knows the score.
Once this pandemic is over, which I hope it will be, who knows, I might even have earned myself a Michelin star.
Westporter Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views monthly. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at judithmarks-white.com.