I don’t talk food much because there’s already a slew of expert bloggers on the subject and I’m admittedly not one of them. But after discovering Donna Hay magazine last month, I can’t think of anything else to talk about except food. Well that, and the many reasons why I’ll never host a show on the Food Network, which I’ll expound upon below.
Given many near-death cooking incidents by either flames leaping from forgotten pans, or my blouse on fire thanks to sleeves gracing a red hot burner due to my lack of attention, I’m not someone you’d call a cook in the full sense of the word. A pyromaniac perhaps, or a circus entertainer, but not a chef.
Here’s what I’ve determined to be my chief issue. Inability to focus on the task at hand. Give me a copy of War and Peace and I’ll read it cover to cover in one big gulp. Show me your space, and I’ll transform it into your dream room. Put me in the kitchen, and I feel like the velvet curtain opened, I’m naked, and all lights are on me as I anxiously fumble around looking for cover. Nervous by the thought of screwing up perfectly good groceries (performance issues?), I morph into the queen of multitask.
While cooking, you’ll find me singing lots of cheesy pop songs (those seem to stick in my head most, “Sexy Back” is my current song of choice), chatting on the phone, cleaning out the fridge, rearranging the glassware, folding linens, reading, anything to keep busy while the salmon bursts into flames. I’m so preoccupied with everything else that I try to brush aside the reason why I’m there in the first place. To cook an edible meal that won’t cause sudden death.
Do I lack culinary passion? Why am I not into this?
I never gave my kitchen behavior much thought until Donna Hay walked into my life. Something about this magazine spoke to me on every level, but mostly on the level that knows that my cooking skills suck and I clearly need to take more of an interest, slow down, and prepare food with passion. God, that sounds so hard.
Before declining my next dinner invitation, don’t get me wrong, I love to experiment and have no fear when it comes to jumping in and emptying the fridge into a wok. Sometimes I pull off a harmonious fusion of something that tastes quite good. Like Thai food. Surprisingly, I’m the master of Thai. And I can make a mean red sauce from scratch, and killer quiche (killer in a good way). But despite the array of cookbooks I own (what, owning them isn’t enough?) I flip, stir, and roast perfectly good food into limp unrecognizable lumps of coal. I feel a bit hedged in when dealing with a recipe. Oh, the boredom of rules! Throwing things together to save time and my “get in get out”‘ mentality is not passionate cooking, right? I mean, women lose their husbands over many a charred lump.
Sure, I can cook, but I’m not a cook. There is a difference, which I’m learning thanks to Munich foodbloggers Delicious Days and Australian chef Donna Hay. I’m starting to realize that being a cook doesn’t have to be so darn stressful because it’s not about acheiving gourmet perfection nor is it about canned soup, casseroles and crockpots (not crackpots).
Thanks to food goddess Nigella Lawson, who I think pioneered this whole passion in the kitchen movement, there seems to be more of a focus on cooking from the soul and less on calories, five hour meal preps, and then the guilt that follows after eating what you’ve made. Just watch lovely Nigella lick her fingers in absolute pleasure, and you just know she’s not running to the bathroom to hurl the moment the cameras stop rolling. That woman lives to bake her cake and eat it, too.
I’ve only been married for 5 years. Most of my life was spent as a non-cook. I lived with roommates or alone, and either ate out, circled the office floor for post-meeting food remains, or dined on Lean Cuisine. My friends and I didn’t talk about food or the latest cookbook. None of us would ever confess to baking cupcakes, inhaling all 6 of them in one night, licking the spoon, and then vegging on the sofa in post-cupcake bliss ala Al Bundy. We’d kiss and tell, but never eat and tell. Only spinsters and the cat lady in 4B did such things. When I married and suddenly had to whip up meals, I felt like a cat being thrown into a bathtub. Extremely uncomfortable and really, really pissed that I wasn’t rich enough to hire someone to cook for us.
Over the years, I’ve evolved as a cook. I’m getting better. But I still burn things and need to focus. Cooking should be more about the rolling up of the sleeves and having fun vs. the getting down to business Martha Stewart perfection. Sure, I love me some Martha, she’s the queen diva of all things domestic. I dream of meeting her someday with hopes that she’ll adopt me so I can live on her big Connecticut farm, chat about entertaining and the beauty of organization as she braids my hair, and hopefully all that Marthaness sinks into my pores turning me into Holly Stewart… But the fact is, I’m totally intimidated by all the gadgets and gear. I refuse to purchase a blow torch for creme brule’, and you’ll never see my hand up the rear of a turkey to pull out its parts (we’d never even kissed!). I don’t get hot thinking about spending a Saturday night at home basting some bird, and doubt I ever will.
Is that okay?
So, starting now, I vow to follow recipes, subscribe to Donna Hay, and work on my fear of cooking. I will show my food that I am more emotionally involved. I will use beautiful photos to become more inspired, and duplicate as many images as I can. My husband will not lovingly smile through another fusion cooking experience. I’ll graduate from Thai cooking school. I will not burn down the house.
About Donna Hay: An Australian cook, food stylist, and author of several cookbooks and who has her own amazing magazine (available at your Barnes + Noble), Donna Hay is the newest “it” girl in cooking for me. I love her food photos, the products she features in her bi-monthly magazine, and some of the super easy cooking features like 10 dishes in 10 minutes and Everyday Easy. If you haven’t heard of Donna Hay, I highly suggest digging into her latest issue and taking in the entire experience.
(images from donna hay)