Before my son was born, my husband and I were avid SVU, CSI and NCIS watchers. We’d binge watch several episodes on the couch after dinner. Just us. It was a routine.
But a funny thing happened after my son was born. Suddenly, I personalized everything I watched on television. Every episode of SVU turned me inside out thinking, God, what if that was my child? The persistent negativity of destruction made me very depressed. Maybe it was the mommy hormones, but it was visceral. So, I stopped watching anything even remotely associated with mayhem and turned to, dare I say it, The Food Network.
As a teenager, I had learned how to cook some basic things mostly from my aunt, who is generally responsible for most of my household management skills. She’s good at it, too. Very good. I was lucky that when I lived with her, she understood legacies better than I did. My beloved Abuela died when I was only eight. I had no idea what a wealth of information and creativity died with her, but I remember to this very day how her kitchen smelled rich with garlic, olive oil and café con leche. She’d had four strokes by the time I was in kindergarten, but even with partial paralysis, she was a master of Spanish food. I didn’t understand what she knew, until I started binge-watching cooking shows while caring for my newborn.
Slowly – because gourmet cooking takes a bit of higher education, don’tchyaknow – I began to see how good cooking is layered. I had always understood that it was an art form and that the best chefs know how to marry flavors into gastronomous masterpieces that quite actually melt in your mouth. While I had always had a pretty good understanding of how to flavor food, never did I have the hubris to refer to my limited knowledge as “skill.” But as I watched, I learned basics that have since made me an excellent cook. Not a chef, no! I wouldn’t dare. Julia Child would roll over in her grave if I wrote something so sacrilegious.
Over the course of seven months, my husband gained twenty pounds while I learned texture, mirepoix, sauces, and thanks to Alton Brown, a great deal of very useful culinary chemistry. (I admit freely that I have a completely sapiosexual crush on Alton Brown. There, I said it. It’s out there.) Now, rather than simply repeating what I learned from my aunt (and some others), I stretch a bit and make it my own. I add something here and there, or substitute (I don’t eat mammals anymore). It feels good to give my family good, nutritious, hand made food. It satisfies my creativity and my philosophy that health care starts on your plate.
Before I end this little missive, I must go on record saying that I still genuinely S U C K at baking. In fact, so certain am I that I’m not good at it, that I’ll gladly defer all my baking needs to my friend Carol who is, even while kicking some cancer-ass, still the one of the best bakers I’ve ever known and she does it in fabulous shoes, too.