Friday, April 10, 2009

Curds and Why

Our parents' generation didn't trust anyone over 30. I don't trust anyone over 30 who doesn't cook.

If you're under 30, I'll cut you some slack: you may have come from a home without a stove, or possibly you were raised by lions in the Kalahari. But if, by 30, you haven't figured out how to put a meal on the table that doesn't come in its own plastic TV tray, there's a good chance you don't like food. And if you don't like food, there's a good chance your organ of appreciation is congenitally malformed and you are a sour, slim-hipped serial killer.

Seriously, folks, I don't think it's a stretch to assert that preparing and serving food is an essential part of being human. I'd even argue that the way we cook offers more insight into our individual psyches than almost any other non-prescription-strength personality test. So instead of taking the time to ascertain the muppet for which you possess the greatest affinity or the color that limns your soul, ask yourself a simple question: What kind of cook are you?

I'm a lazy cook. Exhibit A: at 6:00 PM or so I wander into the kitchen and open the refrigerator. I stare for a couple of minutes at the contents; I might nudge aside a jar or two or open and close the crisper. My thought process goes like this: How few ingredients can I perform the smallest possible number of operations upon in the shortest possible time while maximizing yummyness? It's an equation, albeit a shady, implicit one. 8Y + (-2)I + -4(O) + (-3T) = THE GOLDEN BALANCE, where THE GOLDEN BALANCE= my willingness to cook; where Y=yumminess, I=ingredients, O=operations, and T=time; and where the weights are something I haven't really figured out because I am not actually good at math and probably should have farmed the equation out to my subsidiary in Timbuktu. (Plus it's not that simple: 4 ingredients is better than 8 ingredients, but probably not better than 1 ingredient...)

If I'm cleaning up after myself, I throw in a term about dirtied pots. My go-to bread recipe is the one that requires the shortest rise. And I am a horrendous baker, due largely to the fact that I am unable to stop myself from attempting audacious shortcuts. There are no shortcuts in baking.

Exhibit B is my husband, who approaches cooking with the grim determination of an expeditionary Sherpa. He selects a recipe of unspeakable complexity, makes a special trip to the grocery store to procure goat brain and fenugreek and whatever else, then painstakingly follows directions until the finished product is impeccably plated and the kitchen could be declared a federal disaster area. Hours rolling homemade pasta. Centuries rolling and re-rolling dough for croissants.

Needless to say, I do most of the cooking. It doesn't take a psychoanalyst to figure it out: I'm lazy. He's anal-retentive. Yet, there we all are in the kitchen, cooking. Why? I'd posit that recipe-followers want to make something right, whereas I just want to make something. Other reasons people cook: for love, for money, for duty, for glory, to make the pain fade...

Go ahead and preheat the oven. Leave why for desert.


Jaya said...

Hmm... For company, I cook like Exhibit B. For myself, I expend much less effort than Exhibit A (if peanut butter came in squeeze jars, I could make a meal without getting anything dirty!) Wonder what that says?

(Also, I've never actually read Little Women, but I felt I should vote anyway. I chose Marmee, because I think it's annoying to call anyone Marmee.)

Anne said...

Knowledge is definitely not a prerequisite for voting! We've seen that at the ballot box. Also, Marmee is annoying. Actually, they're all annoying.

Anne said...

Though I chose the insufferable Dr. B