The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

14 August 2014

In which I attempt to mend my ways (kitchen version)

It is no secret to readers here, or people in my real life, that I am not brilliant in the area of cookery. If food preparation requires judicious application of heat and delicate additions of spices, tender nurturing of sauces and the caramelization of anything, I am probably not the girl for the job. (See this story for evidence thereof.)

I have written about my culinary woes before, I know. However I've been making an effort of late, and wish to submit a progress report. What with the lack of employment situation I find myself in, and the general malaise that has descended upon me these last two months or so (do I meant malaise? A general lack of gumption, wherewithal, give-a-darn-ness is what I've got) this little flame of a desire to attempt and even master a few kitchen standards is becoming my raison d'etre.  (Yes, I'm aware that gnocchi should never mean that much to anyone, but what's a cataloguer without a catalogue to do?)

The dream version of me would be able to confidently whip up a brilliant, shiny pavlova (don't ask me why; I've never had it and am generally not fond of meringues or even marshmallows), produce perfect pies, create stunning terrines, roll out rustic pizzas, and know just what was needed to tweak the salad dressing.

I think somewhere deep inside me lies the ability to do all these things.  Cookery is alchemy, isn't it, so hypothetically following the prescribed steps should produce adequate results at the very least.  What recipes always fail to mention, however, is that one should not decide to sort the recycling or finally write that email while the hollandaise goes through its delicate transformation on the stovetop. If one puts an egg on to poach and then walks away looking for the notebook that  contains a scribble about a book from four years ago, one's egg is likely to end up very very cooked. Whacking the rice on a high heat thinking that will speed the process bypasses the very important step of the rice softening whilst it absorbs all that water one so carefully added to the pot.

These are a few of the lessons I have learned over the years.  I hope you may learn from my mistakes.

Anyway.  What has been attempted thus far are these:
Pavlova (fail. What resulted was a flat, sugary cookie.  How odd.)
Gooseberry Pie (my first ever good pie crust. But who knew gooseberries were so sour and would need approximately 72 times more sugar than I used?)
Gnocchi (so good!)
Lamb Terrine (the cooking of was successful.  However, the layer of boiled eggs and raw leek was random, but I'm laying that at the door of the recipe writer)
Pizza (several attempts have been made, and this very night I finally achieved pizza dough success! It rose beautifully, and seemed almost a living thing in my hands. More salt required for flavour, but I'm claiming this as a victory)
Balsamic roast beef (was ok.  I still have yet to cook beef of any variety really well, and I find myself longing for a luscious steak. I am determined to cook it myself.)

Have you noticed that blogs (of the personal journal or clever commentary sort) are full of stories from people who have it all figured out?  "How I learned to organize my house in ten easy steps" or a photo montage of how they managed to turn place mats from the dollar store into a sweet little summer dress. All very inspiring, to be sure. 

I've just done the same thing just now, showing you a list of the six most impressive-sounding dishes  attempted in past weeks, bypassing altogether the details of trying to scoop baking soda out of the dry ingredients because it was meant to be baking powder, egg whites being flung all over the back splash by the blender, pots falling off the stove sending peas everywhere (don't ask) and 'dough' that should instead have been called 'concrete'. Also meals that fell flat after careful preparation because I was too timid with the salt.  Always season well, people!  Your palate will thank you.

What it comes down to is this: culinary brag-list aside, I want to be a good steward. I know I needn't produce gustatory marvels, but I want to treat the food I buy well. I'm trying to be more prudent with what I buy and how I spend when I go marketing. I have tended to buy too much, and then spoil what I do use with inattentiveness while cooking. I want to enjoy the results of my efforts, not regret the money I've spent because I've spoiled another meal or let the ingredients go off.  I'll probably never make a mean risotto, but maybe I can mend my careless ways.

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