Sunday, September 09, 2012

Wit Comes Naturally; Cooking Does Not. **UPDATED**

This started out as a simple status update on Facebook, but I got so carried away with it that I felt it deserved the actual blog. So you know this is gonna be good, right?

For years, family and friends have kindly, graciously, and tirelessly offered to teach me how to cook. Yanaj and I even worked out a deal that she'd teach me how to make one meal a week, and in exchange, I'd teach her everything she needs to know about football. I think we got through one chocolate mousse and a frustrated whiteboard session before we both gave up.

My sister, who makes amazing and "so easy" (her words, not mine) meals that she swears any dummy can learn how to make them. We started making one of her soooooooooo easy recipes and my first (and eventually only task) was to boil the pasta. First of all, this pasta didn't look like any pasta I'd ever seen. It was squishy little balls of pasta that confused me. Secondly, the pasta was going to be part of a dessert, which confused me even more, because what kind of dessert has pasta in it?

Back to the boiling. My excuse for not knowing how to boil pasta is that clearly my mind was swimming with unending questions like the ones above. I filled the pot with water, dumped the pasta in the pot, set the pot on the burner, and was met by a bewildered facial expression on my sister. She was doing that face where you're not sure if someone is kidding or being serious, and you can't commit your face to either one; because if they're kidding then you're already kind of smiling, at least enough to lead into a full on smile. But if they're being serious, you cannot have a smile on your face because then you will just make that person feel dumb because she thought it was a perfectly reasonable process she'd followed to boil pasta, even though you know that that's not how you do it at all, and you've committed to the raised-eyebrows, half-smile, slightly tilted head of confusion face; because you don't want to make her feel dumb, but you kind of can't believe that a thirty-year-old woman doesn't know how to boil pasta.

But as a graceful, kind woman does, you repeatedly assure your sister that she is very special (so special that she can't boil pasta correctly) and tell her that this way of doing it is cutting edge, and practically no one knows how to do it this way anyway, so it's really not a big deal. And she'll tell everyone at dinner how YOU cooked the dessert pasta, and she'll praise the perfect tenderness of the pasta, and how helpful it was to have you in the kitchen to help. And I kept asking questions like why are we having pasta balls in our dessert. Because, unlike my sister, I am not a woman of grace and kindness.

Did you know that you have to boil the water first, then add the pasta? Probably, because that seems like the very rudimentary things you learn early on in your life as a chef. Or as a normal person who makes food, ever.

And we all remember the debauchery that was Tiff's birthday dinner two years ago, when I was banished to the rice cooker. 

Then a good friend gave me a cute little one-quart crock pot, because there's nothing easier than making crock pot recipes. Just dump it all in and go, right? Wrong. I learned that I didn't have most of the ingredients on hand to make the recipes that looked good, so I just kind of winged it a couple times by  That was about two years ago.

Last Christmas, my best friend in PA sent me a gorgeous slow roaster, complete with a fail-proof book of recipes. Not just recipes, ya'll, but pictures of the ingredients (so I could recognize them easier in the grocery store), locations of where within the store each item could be found (otherwise I'd end up wandering around aimlessly for hours and get bored and give up), pictures of each cooking tool or utensil I'd need, where to buy those, on and on. This was the complete idiot's absolutely fail proof handbook to slow roasting. She could not possibly have made it any easier for me to successfully prepare a delicious meal from start to finish. And it is an amazing slow roaster - at least the pictures on the box it's still stored in look amazing.

My point being, friends are constantly offering to help teach me how to cook. telling me how once I start doing it, I'll love it, I'll come up with amazingly tasty and creative recipes all on my on, and one day I'll impress a handsome man with my cooking skillz and he'll immediately want to have lots of sex and babies with me. And I always respond with the same eye-rolling, whiny responses: "But it's so hard to prepare and cook all this food for just one single person. It's so much easier to just make a sandwich or have a bowl of cereal. Leftovers go bad before they go rotten, and frankly I just do not enjoy having to put anything more than barely minimal effort into what I eat. I always thanked them for their offers to bestow culinary pearls of wisdom upon me and thus change my life forever, but politely declined. Probably not even politely; probably just stubbornly.

Because I do not like cooking, and you cannot make me do it! 

And then something weird happened this morning. I saw my cute little crock pot sitting in the cupboard, and I thought of the huge pork pieces I had in the fridge. I say "pork pieces" because I honestly have no idea what kind of pork parts they are. I know they're not pork chops, because there don't have bones. But beyond that, ya got me. They're just big lumps of port.

I looked at the pork lumps, then back to the crock pot. Then I thought about how much I love pork, and how nice it would be to eat something tonight that I really like, and that I actually made. So I just went for it.

And here's where it really gets fun and interesting folks, because we don't know how this all turns out for another 6-8 hours. I'd try to walk you through my thought process as I grabbed different ingredients, but I had no thought process other than, "That could taste good."

I put the pork lump in the crock pot. I remembered hearing or reading somewhere that you need to have some kind of base liquid, so I found some plain chicken broth and poured some of that in. Then I found half an apple I had cut up, some coconut flakes, and brown sugar. That all sounded pretty good, so into the pot they went. It looked like it needed more liquid, so I added some maple syrup. A quick taste sample proved this method to be much too sweet, and I needed to find something to bring that down a bit. I was trying to think of the words they use on Food Network that describes the counter part to a sweet element (not salty just because it's the opposite of sweet;) I knew there was a fancy word to describe what I was looking for, and what I found was Dijon mustard. So I squirted some of that into the pot and stirred it up.

Are you squeamish yet? I know I'm more than a little nervous about how this Pork Lump and Stuff (that's what I'm calling my recipe) will turn out. But I'm starting to catch whiffs from the kitchen, and I might be more on the right track than I thought.

Or this could be a completely awesome disaster that I will be forced to eat and blog about, especially if I get horrendous poos as a result. So stay tuned!

 Six hours later, the apartment smelled delicious and I was ready to unveil my Pork Lumps and Stuff. And I hate to disappoint you, but it was actually....really, really good. Part of me was hoping that it would be unpalatable, and I'd have a hilarious story to tell about my latest culinary failure. But it was good. It was really saucy, which kept the pork moist and juicy and now I even have lunch ready for tomorrow. 

 In the crock pot.
Out of the crock pot, and immediately before entering my belly. 
I know that making a successful crock pot meal is nothing to most you amazing cooks, planners, recipe creators, and unbelievably amazing chefs who put together entire meals on a daily basis, for entire families - but I have to pat myself on the back for this small victory for Bone. Yes, it's essentially just dumping things into a warming pot, and there's not much "real" cooking involved for me...but it's baby steps, and today, this gal made huge baby steps.