Tuesday, December 10, 2013

food and cooking

Deb N. wrote about food and cooking. Basically she said she likes cooking more than eating, because it's more involving and takes longer. (That's oversimplified. Read it.)

That runs interestingly orthogonally to my preferences. I rather enjoy cooking, but for me the primary pleasure in it, and the whole point of the process, is that at the end there will be something to eat. This varies. Sometimes cooking is just a chore to get through to provide food. At the other end, I sometimes enjoy cooking things that I'm not interested in eating. I discovered this particular pleasure at summer camp in childhood, when I found that I did not like campfire-roasted marshmallows, but I did enjoy the challenge of toasting one perfectly brown and letting someone else eat it.

I realized my goal-oriented feeling towards food also in childhood, when I was taken fishing. To a true fisherman (or -woman, I suppose), the point of fishing is to spend the day fishing. Making a meal out of the result is lagniappe. I don't feel that way. If I want to expend vast lengths of time doing something enjoyable, I'll read or listen to music, or both. To me, fishing may be fun, but the entire point of doing it is to catch fish, take them home, clean, cook, and eat them. (I once went clam-digging with friends. That was loads of fun, though the clams didn't think so, but it was also more labor-intensive for the amount of food than anything else in the food-prep department I've ever done. Not surprisingly, I've never repeated it. It would be a lot less fun done regularly.)

I'm similar with other things. Writing is sometimes difficult: the pleasure is in having written. I enjoy driving, exploring places I haven't been, or haven't been in a long time, but I never just go out on a drive without a destination. (Cruising utterly baffles me. Who wants to be in a back-and-forth traffic jam for hours on end? That strikes me as the complete opposite of fun.) If I want to go somewhere without a particular reason, I make up a destination, usually a restaurant I want to try.

I'm not a particularly talented cook. Basic competence in the kitchen is my speed; good slugger on a sandlot team but no more than that. Most of my dinners are stir-frys, saut├ęs, or casseroles. Only occasionally, for a special occasion, do I make elaborate from-scratch dishes. Typical of that for me is the quiche I submitted to the Tiptree supper book, and that's not that elaborate. (I don't make my own pie crust.) Mostly I take recipes from packages and run variations on them. I do like the tinkering. I prefer cooking to baking, because baking demands rigid precision in ingredients and isn't much amenable to improvisation.

Unless I'm taking a dish to a potluck, in which case it has to be something that will keep and carry, which doesn't always work well, B. is usually my only audience. We're not social animals and almost never have anyone over; for us, home is a refuge from the world, not a place to invite it in. I know what B. likes and I enjoy pleasing her; nothing pleased me more than discovering she shares my taste for vastly overcooked vegetables.

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