“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” – Harriet Van Horne.
The problem with being a good cook is that everybody expects you to produce amazingly good food every single time! There are no exceptions and no excuses are accepted. Once you are on the good cook list, you really have to work hard to stay in the top 10 and people are just incredibly fussy, judgmental and often damn you with faint praise. Cheap and cheerful recipes are not for you. If you are a good cook, here are 8 struggles which will certainly resonate with you.
1. You have to adjust the menu because…..
You telephone your guests well in advance and ask if they have any dietary restrictions. You can cope with vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerant and even gluten free. The only problem is that when somebody adds a last minute guest who just happens to be lactose intolerant and you have ordered mozzarella cheese from your local dairy. You bang the saucepan on the counter top and feel perfectly justified in never inviting them again.
2. You cannot find that spice.
Guess what? The turmeric spice which is an essential spice in your curry just happens to be behind all the other things in the spice cupboard. You are also running out of time and growling while tempted to throw everything on the floor.
3. You hate guests who arrive early.
The final countdown. Quite frankly, it is sometimes scary. These are the moments when everything has to mesh together for that perfect dinner party and then the doorbell rings. They hope you don’t mind they are half an hour early and they will not disturb you! You can cope with late guests up to a certain point but the early ones can ruin everything.
4. You love perfection but it is not easy.
Can you remember a dinner that went perfectly? The starters were gobbled up and there were enthusiastic murmurs. The pasta dish was perfectly done in a delicious sauce which was just right. Not too salty, not too bland, the pasta not too much ‘al dente’. The roast was perfectly cooked and not too dry and the syllabub was perfectly smooth and the ginger spice was not too strong. Dream on! There will always be something that just did not quite make the grade. Well, 90% is not so bad and you think that your friends’ cooking is pretty mediocre anyway. You remember when you had to eat those miserable, shrivelled up quails the last time you were invited to their place!
5. You wait for the compliments that never come.
We all crave praise. It is human. But sometimes your dinner guests get caught up in some awful political discussion while you hope they will be distracted enough to give you a little praise. If only they knew the effort you made in ordering the right cut of meat, the detours you made to get the fresh vegetables, not to mention the problems in finding the fresh cream at the dairy because your normal shop had run out. Yes, it was Sunday and you should have known but you would never mention all that!
6. You dare not to experiment with a new dish.
It is just not worth the stress. I have decided never again to try out something new on my guests as it is far too risky. You have studied all the guru chefs and crawled the Internet for the perfect recipe. But it is much better to try it out on your own. Yes, it is a waste of food, energy, blood, sweat, and tears. But you know, it is worth it because there are times when you think ‘Thank goodness I did not try that on my guests.’ You also console yourself with the fact that cooking is a science and it is not about throwing some ingredients in a crockpot.
“There are people who claim to be instinctive cooks, who never follow recipes or weigh anything at all. All I can say is that they’re not very fussy about what they eat. For me, cooking is an exact art and not some casual game.” – Delia Smith.
7. You refuse to take shortcuts.
“The radiation left over from the Big Bang is the same as that in your microwave oven but very much less powerful. It would heat your pizza only to minus 271.3°C – not much good for defrosting the pizza, let alone cooking it.” – Stephen Hawking
You will rarely use the microwave of course. That is not real cooking. There are some shortcuts you refuse to take because you are a good cook and you want to keep your reputation. I have lots of friends who can spot home made pasta, fresh fish and even home made pie crust. Taking shortcuts just does not work. You have to do it the hard old way. That reminds me, I rarely make homemade vegetable stock and so far, I have got away with it!
8. You are always learning.
You spend hours researching and studying recipes and nobody realizes that. Of course, you learn from your mistakes and Julia Child recommends that good cooks should be fearless and have a lot of fun. You should also reflect on your successes and praise yourself to the skies, if no one else will!
“Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from her mistakes.” – Julia Child, My Life in France.
Featured photo credit: I can cook! Watch me!/Phu Son via flickr.com