Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Some Do and Some Don't (You Never Can Tell with Bees)
My mother's attitude toward cooking could best be described as tepid and when I married, I felt much the same way. My father-in-law owned a roadside restaurant and my husband and I ate there most of the time when we began our life together. When we moved away from this refuge, TunaHelper became my best friend. Then I had a baby and found there were huge amounts of my time at home that stretched before me like the Gobi Desert. I started to read recipes in magazines, and then cookbooks. I discovered I could make things that I'd never dreamed of eating--exotic delicacies like eggs foo yung and beef stew with red wine.
As the seventies progressed, so did the cookbooks,and the minute I discovered Elizabeth David, there was no turning back. One year we bought half a pig and every damned bit of it was served up in the style of the French provinces.
Cooking was the least irksome domestic duty and I immersed myself in it. When my kids grew up, I cooked dinner for friends; after my first three months in Thailand, I came back to the U.S. and found a Thai cookbook and made wild forays into that cuisine with enthusiasm and very little skill.
Then I went back to Thailand for two years, during which time I never cooked a damned thing--ever. I made coffee in the morning and that was it. On the streets were hundreds of people who cooked for me, and in the nine years total that I spent in that country, I learned not to cook.
This is not a skill that translates well in the States.
At heart I suppose I was never a cook or I couldn't have relinquished the task so thoroughly. I've been back from Thailand for three years and the only food I ever cook edibly is Thai. When I don't make that effort, I roast chickens and chunks of pork. or I buy a quart of plain yogurt and eat it, or when tomatoes finally smell the way they should, I eat them. But as far as combining these things into a creative little mixture, forget it. That means cooking and I don't do that anymore.
It's too much effort and too much money for too little pleasure. It's boring--both making the food and consuming it. And face it, a tomato tastes best when in the peak of summer it's eaten like the fruit it is, uncooked with a sprinkling of salt.
Much of my aversion to practicing culinary arts in this country is most of the food is eaten out of season and very little of it is fresh. The worst thing to happen to food was refrigeration. In countries where that's uncommon, food has to be fresh. And that's a terrible thing to become accustomed to, because when you're back in the land of freezers and refrigerators, you don't want to eat.
It's summer in Seattle and I understand the farmer's markets have fruit and vegetables that haven't been shipped for thousands of miles in a reefer van. There's a butcher shop down the street that has unfrozen meat that is displayed like offerings from Tiffany and cost only marginally less. It's the time to eat, I suppose--if I can afford to pay those premium prices for food that tastes good--food that stands on its own without ruffles and flourishes and with the barest minimum of preparation.
Or I can move back to the nation of good cooks and let them do it all for me...