(OH, DON’T PRETEND YOU DIDN’T SEE THIS ONE COMING.)
I’ve said it before. I like to eat. A lot. I like to eat a lot. I love food. I’m a firm believer that one should live to eat, not eat to live.
Which makes the fact that I’ve been living with an eating disorder for this long incredibly amusing.
I learned to cook when my grandmother would cut off my limit for food at the table. I worked at a Hardee’s at the time, where I could get enormous burgers whenever I wanted to and had the money for. I would often get a charbroiled burger from there before I got home because otherwise the dinner that would be waiting for me would be meagre. As I also tired of the repetitive selection, I started using my check to fiddle around with making things.
…the first few times, it was a disaster. I smoked the kitchen up one day trying to make pancakes. I learned from that mistake, though, and began playing around with different things. Eventually I picked up some base skills—the grilled cheese sandwich, the perfectly toasted fish fillet. My first foray into REAL cooking, however, came from me needing to bum a ride to a place. I paid attention to the flavors of my cousin’s favorite food, and by the time I needed to get things done, I had a plate of hot wings ready to bribe him with. Frankly I was hoping for “It’s edible” as a response.
“…Wow, cous,’ when did you learn how to cook on us? This is actually good!”
I swear, I was floating on air. That year was also the year I made the Christmas dinner and completely floored them.
Since then I’ve taken it to a whole ‘nother level—it’s always kind of gratifying to have a little light lunch on the building common area and watch the faces as I pull out one of my simpler dishes with a gourmet spin—like my California roll. Deceptively simple to make, but so pretty that people don’t hesitate to stop, stare, and demand where I got it. I love watching their faces when I answer that I made it myself. It stops the “but OUR people don’t eat that” argument in its tracks when they find out THAT little bit of information.
Another thing I like about cooking is that I know what’s in the things that I eat—only the things that I put in them. If you’ve ever looked at the label of a back of a microwave popcorn package (full disclosure, YUM), and then compared it to just popping it at home…some of the things in microwave popcorn are…er…alarming, to be nice about it.
I can actually make a few things after I’ve eaten them a few times. I like to dissect a recipe until I can replicate it as exactly as possible—and then improve on it. As a result, I’m just a little bit of a food snob on some things. (“Excuse me. This soy sauce contains no soy—and I’m beginning to suspect no sauce.”)
Presentation is a big thing, too: I prefer my food to look as good as it’s going to taste. This is part of why my favorite Iron Chef is Masaharu Morimoto: his food is so pretty that I feel guilty about being just about to watch the judges scarf it down. Food must be a feast for ALL the senses, not just the taste. I get the feeling if this attitude were more prevalent in America, the obesity rate would drop. I’m a terrible binge-eater, and if I stop to make my food look as beautiful as it tastes, I eat less—and feel better.
I get a lot of grief for being into what’s called “food porn.” No, it’s not what it sounds like. Go search for www.foodporndaily.com. I’ll wait. If you need a snack afterwards, I’ll still wait.
See how beautiful the food can be? Involved dishes can be beautiful, as can simple ones. Making the food a visual feast helps one enjoy it more. I flatly refuse to eat something that hasn’t even had the barest attempt at making its plating attractive. I even try to make my soups attractive to look at—lemon wedge perched at the edge of a bowl anyone? I think that food loses something if it’s just thought of as human fuel.
…Now, I’ll do you guys a favor and shut my mouth. Because I CAN go on for hours about my philosophy about food, and I DO have other entries to get to…