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October 01, 2005

Food Prep

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Have I mentioned that The Wife and I are taking a cooking class? Three sessions only, but full evenings on each of three standard techniques: sauteeing, roasting, and grilling. Learn-how-to-cook-without-a-menu stuff that's basic enough for me but that's focused enough so that The Wife (already an excellent home chef) is picking up some tips too.

A fun and sexy activity. (Hey single guys: take cooking classes!) And, I'm finding, an amazingly engrossing one. I like food, I'm interested in nutrition and health, and the Wife long ago drew me into eating and dining as an orgiastic art adventure. Yet until a couple of months ago, I never found the idea of preparing food appealing. Digging in? Sure! But preparing the stuff? I was perfectly happy making my contribution by washing up and taking out the trash.

Yet here I am today, squeezing veggies, scraping up pan drippings, and strolling with a critical eye around William-Sonoma. Who knows why our interests turn these corners? In any case, I'm finding the whole food-preparation thing very enjoyable. What's not to love? You use your body, your brain, and your senses; you experience the craft pleasure of making something; and then you get to eat it. Now that's a rewarding artform.

A completely unexpected consequence is that I've lost a few pounds. Celebrity chefs may tend to the chubby, but I'm a little sleeker than I once was. At first I was baffled. Could those ab exercises I've been doing four times a week really be having such a dramatic effect? Then it occurred to me: It was the cooking. Involve yourself in food as creation and pleasure rather than as easy-to-grab fuel or convenient entertainment -- really pay attention to it -- and you simply don't need as much of it. Preparing a dish -- I'm a long way yet from being able to prepare an entire meal -- turns out to be a major food pleasure in its own right. Shopping, sniffing, tasting, and playing-with food provide a lot of sensory payoffs and creative satisfactions even before you commence with the chowing down.

Hmm, I wonder if I'm discovering the food-and-eating equivalent of the difference between "making love" and "just boffing away" ...



posted by Michael at October 1, 2005


"Just boffing away"

I get such an education from this site!

Now, grillin' is part of the Texas DNA, ya know. Kill it, and grill it. A good motto.

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on October 1, 2005 6:22 PM

Cooking can be a highly satisfying activity for people who like to work with their hands.

Posted by: Jonathan on October 1, 2005 11:17 PM

I trust you found a class that doesn't cost the proverbial arm and leg. A while back my wife looked into a once-per-week baking class at the French Culinary Institute aimed at serious amateurs, and it was something like $1,000 for a few months.

Posted by: Peter on October 1, 2005 11:19 PM

"Celebrity chefs may tend to the chubby"
What chefs did you have in mind? And what do you mean chubby?

As far as I can tell, good cooks are always are never fat.

Posted by: j.c. on October 2, 2005 11:11 AM

Beautifully summed up....I've been a food fan for years, mainly because I grew up in the kitchen while my mother cooked. Talk about passion - I hear nothing but music when I'm cooking. Chopping, cutting, sauteing, roasting, baking...Im never as happy anywhere as I am when I'm in the kitchen. So close to ditching the whole literary thing. So close.

Posted by: Neha on October 2, 2005 5:18 PM

Pattie -- Kill it and grill it is a good motto. I have much to learn from Texans.

Jonathan -- It is nice that way, isn't it? Kind of like carpentry, only with much better smells. Plus it's such a nice contrast to brainwork.

Peter -- I was staggered by the prices at the French Culinary Institute myself. The Institute of Culinary Education on 23rd St. (formerly Peter Kump's) has nice prices and a very full schedule. I'm tempted and I hear some nice things about them. But I also hear they can be a real factory. I'm taking at a restaurant called Camaje in the central Village. Very informal, tiny classes (4-6), taught right in the kitchen by chef Abby Hitchcock. I'm enjoying it a lot, and will take more courses there. Please let me know if you turn up good ones anywhere.

J.C. -- Mario, Emeril, Lidia, that Southern gal on Food Network ... Come to think of it, whatever happened to Paul Prud'homme - is he still around? But I don't really know the food world at all well, and you're probably right that most good chefs aren't chubby.

Neha -- I grew up in the kitchen as my mother, alas, opened cans and de-frosted '50s and '60s food, which completely failed to turn me into a foodie. The Wife's touch with food is very different: California hippie-nouvelle, or something like that. Very scrumptious. Amazing how aesthetically/sensually rewarding monkeying with food can be. Plus it's practical - people gotta eat. (And they'll love you for feeding them -- always nice to be appreciated.) Fun as writing can be, it's nowhere near as all-enveloping a pleasure as food is, do you find? Plus it can be hard to get people to pay attention to your writing. But everyone's happy to say "thank you" for a nice plate of food.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 2, 2005 11:55 PM

Canning and baking are my creative outlets in the kitchen. My mother was a superb baker and could make a basic chocolate chip cookie taste like something touched by the gods. And she taught me all her secrets-- like a hint of ginger in an apple pie brightens all the flavors.

I just got done canning 3 bushels of tomatoes and freezing 100 lbs of apples into sauce. I have some tart cherries frozen that will be turned into preserves this week and then, I think, I am done for the fall until cranberries come in to make cranberry preserves. It's so satisfying to have those rows of jars and shelves in the freezer full of goodies for when the snow flies.

Posted by: Deb on October 3, 2005 6:20 AM

Funny you mentioned Paul Prud'homme---I'd forgotten him too until the hurricane---he was busy donating gourmet meals to the evacuees!!

Posted by: annette on October 3, 2005 12:52 PM

How interesting that you're a little 'sleeker' than you used to be. It does seem harder to overeat when you've prepared a meal yourself, and especially when you've taken time over the meal. I'm hopelessly impatient in the kitchen: my mother is so sad I don't have her cooking gene (and does she have a cooking gene! Yummy).

I'm gonna have to take one of these classes someday.....

Posted by: MD on October 4, 2005 7:37 AM

MD, according to this , it helps to seat down why eating your meal - and "buddy up".

Posted by: Tatyana on October 4, 2005 8:43 AM

What about the old saying about too many cooks spoiling the roast chicken? I hope you and the wife aren't cooking together every night now. I see trouble ahead...

Posted by: Neil on October 4, 2005 10:27 PM

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