Cooking: I Don’t Suck At It~!
My appetite was best described as voluminous when I was younger. When I was a teenager I would eat and brother could I eat. I wasn’t necessarily a glutton mind you but if the food was in front of me it would be a mere matter of moments before it was gone. I don’t think I ever really learned how to savor my meals. Mind you, a good portion of my teens was spent in boarding school. One might expect horror stories about food prepared at a boarding school but there was never a meal that was served to me there that I did not finish. Never once was I served liver, which is a dish that I find abhorrent, and if a dish had bananas, of which I am violently allergic, then I usually abstained. So the best way to describe my dietary needs as a teenager is simple, I devoured everything in my path.
Now of course all this devouring led to me being a tad on the pudgy side. I was 15 when I was shipped of to a certain school on Long Island and I was already 220 pounds. I am very grateful for my school’s athletic program as it got me down to 200, even lower than that during wrestling season, but I never stopped loving every morsel of food I devoured. It was definitely a balance of diet and exercise that pretty much prevented me from really ballooning to zeppelin like proportions. However, in all the time I spent eating I never really bothered to consider the other side of the equation, namely cooking. Sure I had experimented when I was younger by trying to make a spaghetti sauce one time in order to give my mother a break from cooking, but that little fiasco resulted in a red mess all over the kitchen floor. No, it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I started to experiment with cooking.
I, of course, went to that most established of cooking academies known as the local Taco Bell. That was more an experience in “I really need to have this job if I want to make rent” as opposed to learning how to cook. Still, I learned that to get that unique Taco Bell flavor you relied on the magic ingredient of lard. I was glad to quit that job because it meant I would never have to see how the food at Taco Bell was made ever again. Still, working there got me the experience I needed to get other kitchen jobs. I have done morning prep and afternoon prep as well as made sandwiches, soups and salads. I have grilled, fried and broiled more than my fare share of meat. I know this much, none of my employers would say I was a great employee. It didn’t change the fact that I still managed to learn about how to cook. Every restaurant I ever worked at resulted a little bit of knowledge getting crammed into my head and then from there I would apply that to my own culinary adventures.
I have cooked on grills of both the flat iron and open variety. I have stir-fried in woks and regular skillets. I have baked bread and boiled meats for soup. I’ve fucked up my soup by putting in too much rice and yet still managed to salvage it by turning it into a chicken and rice dish. Of course I’ve also completely burned meat to the point of it being a mere cinder and inedible. I mean shit, I’m not infallible, only the Pope is that and since I’m a Jew I don’t give a fuck if the Pope doesn’t like my burnt meat. Unless he is, for some inexplanable reason, in my house expecting to be fed. Then the Holy Father, is getting him some damn fine home cooking, even if I have to improvise a ramen dish!
I know this much, after spending more than 10 years working in 6 different kitchens, I never want to work in a restaurant kitchen ever again. Shit, I’m almost 40 and I’ve got bad knees so spending all that time on my feet is murder. Add to that, my weight will fluctuate anywhere between 230-250 pounds and I’m carrying a whole lot of me around. For the record, 250 is not the heaviest I’ve been. Sometime in the late 90’s I had really let myself go and Super Sized myself to 375 pounds. The fact that I got myself down to the 230-250 range, fuck that was a miracle, but that is what being broke can do for your diet. I know I’m tipping closer to 250 these days in all honesty. I think I’m tipping over that right now but I’m too scared to even think of approaching that scale. So I’m trying to diet and it is kinda working since I don’t feel bloated when I get done eating.
Still, dieting is pretty fucking hard when you like to both cook and eat. Nothing makes me happier than cooking for my friends. I never really liked cooking a restaurant because to me it was work, it was what I was doing to survive. Cooking for people I actually give a shit about though? Now that is one of those things that makes me happiest. What I usually cook isn’t fancy and it is pretty much comfort food. Meatballs, Meatloaf, Soups, Burgers and things that really don’t my, or anyone else’s attempts to lose weight. But I love food. I love the smell of it cooking, the simple flavor of a roast chicken, the texture that perfect sandwich and that incredible smell and flavor of garlic since pretty much goes with anything.
Shit, sitting here writing this I’ve thought of at least 4 dishes I want to experiment with and 2 of those involve chicken. What? Who doesn’t love chicken? I mean besides a certain someone I know and vegans? Chicken is the world’s most perfect food because it goes with anything. Chicken soup, chicken stew, fried chicken, chicken dumplings… shit that is barely the tip of the iceberg to what you can do with a chicken. I’ll eat almost anything involving a chicken. Well, almost anything because chicken liver is gross and if you mix chicken and bananas I’ll pretty much die because I am deathly allergic to them.
Oh and I won’t eat duck!
I used to eat duck but I don’t anymore for a very geeky reason that I am not going to go into here. If you serve me duck I will be very polite and say “No thank you” and that will be that. It will be very civil and inoffensive as possible. As opposed to serving me a banana which would result in a me screaming at you and possibly me accusing you of being some sort of assassin.
Anyway, my point is this… I love food. I love cooking food. I love cooking food not just for myself but for everyone I care about. Telling me you enjoyed the meal I prepared for you equates to “Thank you James, you really are a good person” in my mind. For those of you who I’ve cooked for, I know you have appreciated it and I thank you for the honor of letting me prepare your repast. To those I’ve yet to cook for, I look forward to doing so and hope you will enjoy the experience. If it is any sort of consolation, no one I have cooked for has ever fallen sick. If that isn’t a ringing endorsement I don’t what is!