Monday, March 17, 2008

I can bring home the bacon, not so sure about frying it up in the pan.

Back in my youth, there used to be a lot of concern about giving kids false hope. “Don’t tell little Susie she can win the soap box derby. It’ll just give her false hope” or “Don’t tell little Timmy ‘Phantom Menace’ won’t suck. It’ll just give him false hope.” That kind of thing. As a jaded, bitter adult woman, I lost my capacity for false hope – or any kind of hope, really – a long time ago except in one key area: the thought that I might be able to cook like the people on Food Network.

I have prepared, in total, probably four meals in my life that didn’t have instructions written on the back of a box or include serving advice like “cut a one-inch hole in plastic cover.” But still I hold out hope that one day I can cook like that slightly creepy Nigella Lawson woman whose show sort of makes me feel like I’m watching late night Cinemax. Or that nice Paula Deen who makes me regret almost every joke I’ve ever made about the South and who makes me want to coat my arteries with butter because, in her hands, butter looks so delicious it absolutely must be good for you. I’d like to be able to barbecue with Bobby Flay, too, except I don’t know how to light a grill and am afraid if I try, it’ll turn into some terrible Evel Knievel stunt gone wrong. And that’s just lighting the grill. We haven’t even gotten to matters of spice and dry rub.

These are the kinds of things I worry about when I approach the kitchen. Yet I know I need to overcome these fears because one, I’m afraid the pizza delivery man has become too familiar, waving and blowing kisses as he drives away from our house each night and two, because eating like a college student at the age of 30-something will kill me just as surely as Paula Deen’s butter-coated arteries and three, because as a modern day woman there shouldn’t be anything I can’t conquer – especially, let’s face it, if Rachael Ray can do it.

I just have to get past the false hope of awesomeness that the Food Network has foisted on me. I’ll never cook as well as the people on TV because it’s not my full-time job. I don’t have a state-of-the-art kitchen. I have a small crappy kitchen. I don’t have thousands of dollars in pots and pans. I have bowls with Star Trek characters on them and a skillet that looks like cowboys cooked beans in it. I don’t have the training either. To me, ramikins are Pokemon characters. Who knew? But I think it’s okay not to be a Top Chef (sorry, different network) just as long as I try. What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like people die from food poisoning, right?

P.S. If you see a fireball over my house, you’ll know I never mastered barbecue.


Steph said...

You can do it!

Then again, I'm freakishly domestic, and made souffle and homemade soup this weekend. For, um, myself. Which makes me feel kind of like a loser, so I won't think about that.

Dishes, on the other hand...

megan said...

I, too, am a fantastically not-innate cook. So far I have found that picking one recipe, or set of recipes to make for a dinner, then making it over and over again until I am capable of no longer doing terrible things to the food works for me. If you can get past the devastatingly inedible early stages you'll find you'll suddenly know how to, say, cook a pork loin. I've been working away for four years and barely feel competent, but dinners have steadily become yummier and healthier.

So, there is hope - ?

Laura said...

I try to think if my FN friends as inspiring me to be more creative with the things I do actually cook. I've tried a few rubs on steaks, I grilled onions and added them to my tuna casserole and I jazzed up my brownie recipe. Oh yeah, and I BRINED A TURKEY!! (Thank you, AB)

I'll never cook like them but watching them has rubbed off on my cooking a tiny little bit.

Liz said...

Laura, you brined a turkey?? I am mightily impressed. And Steph, you made a souffle? I'm impressed with cooking a pork loin, too, Megan. Thanks all three of you for giving me culinary hope!

Scrap Irony said...

Oh my goodness. I made the prettiest ciabatta bread yesterday. It took a total of literally 30 hours with rising and what not, but it's so tasty. I even took pictures of it because I was so in awe of the fact that I made it. There are pictures of my bread on my telephone as proof to those who doubt me.

I believe in you Liz.

I'm all about the baking. I think I just like making messes

Jessica said...

Oh, god, cooking. I keep meaning to learn how to do that. It's just so time consuming! And not as cheap as Taco Bell.

Nightfall said...

I highly recommend
She's heavy on the butter too, but her pics and instructions are all laid out for you. The twice baked potatoes are yummy, as is the beef tenderloin (good way to impress company too). For a more scientific approach, try

Best of luck!

Bakerloo said...

I am not good at cooking either, especially without VERY SPECIFIC instructions. But here's what I've found helps me feel more confident in the kitchen:

I pretend I am on one of those shows, and I narrate what I'm doing and sometimes throw in some witty remarks about food.

I recommend only doing this while you are alone, unless you like being made fun of.

stephL! said...

I'm surprised . . . I just always thought cooking was a matter of following directions. At least, that's how I learned.