By Virginia DeBerry - December 5, 2008
It feels a little odd and may even seem a bit disingenuous to write an essay about how much I love to cook as I sit here munching on my dinner--the fourth turkey sandwich in as many days. So let me be clear—while I most often do not prepare real meals for myself, I love to cook—when I have an audience.
I haven’t actually thought of preparing a meal as a live performance before this very moment but for me, that’s essentially what it is. Not FoodTV performance—which is really a demonstration— for me it is much more like an offering to those in attendance, live in real time, like the actors in a play or musicians in a concert. And maybe that’s why it brings me such satisfaction.
I cook all kinds of food— Creole shrimp etouffee, omelets, fried chicken, Thai seafood in red curry, lasagna, soups (my feelings about canned soup are like Mommie Dearest’s and wire hangers) and things I make up as I go along. I love the preparation—thinking about what to make, shopping for ingredients; the execution—chopping, dicing, sizzling, bubbling and the aromas that fill the house, setting the table with just the right colors and textures (no themed tablescapes though –just flowers, fruit, candles). And then the best part—serving what I have made to my friends and family.
Now before someone suggests that I do a cookbook or asks for my recipes, I have to admit that I almost never use them-books or recipes—which is why I like to cook, NOT bake. I understand technique and why certain ways of cooking and putting ingredients together work well and why others only create disasters like curdled hollandaise. But I’ve never been very good at following orders so most of the dishes I make are those I’ve eaten somewhere, figured out the ingredients and used my intuition about amounts. I substitute freely if I think my idea is better or at least more interesting. I’m a pinch, dash, handful, smell, listen and look kinda cook—and most of the time that works just fine.
Now that I think about it, the whole process isn’t a lot different from writing is it?