The trouble with being thought of as vaguely capable in the kitchen is that nobody ever wants to cook for you.
Dinner invitations are usually conditional upon bringing a course or two, and if not, the host spends the entire night apologising for the food. It’s not that I’m really all that good in the kitchen. I can get by – I just talk about food rather a lot and, as a result, seem to have acquired a bit of a reputation. To a certain extent, this even affects my very best beloved, who will reluctantly admit she can cook -technically- but refuses all accolades. I feel very much to blame. I’ve damaged the poor girl’s confidence by giving her some false impression that I actually know what I’m talking about when it comes to food (which is strange, because she treats all my other opinions as droning flights of fancy). The fact is, she’s an excellent cook and an outstanding baker. If only she believed it. I suppose, if I’m honest, I can be a wee bit territorial in the kitchen. I find it very hard to tolerate anyone else being in there with me when I’m trying to cook. It’s not a large space, and I tend to zip around with knives pointing outwards. Not exactly welcoming behaviour.
Anyway, what I’m getting at here is that those of us who are considered to have a degree of culinary prowess really deserve a lot of violin-accompanied pity. We almost always get stuck with the cooking, when sometimes – just occasionally – we like nothing better than having somebody else (irrespective of skill) to cook for us. Personally, I enjoy and appreciate any meal that somebody else has taken the time and trouble to cook (unless it contains tinned fish, in which case I will probably be very ungrateful and sulky indeed).
I’m very lucky in that when my best beloved plucks up the courage to cook, she does a great job. Last night she made her excellent chilli con carne (with the welcome addition of beer a la Helen’s recent recipe), and it was one of the nicest meals I’ve eaten in weeks – yes because she’s a good cook, but also because she made it for me. I don’t mean in the sense of it being some great romantic gesture – let’s face it, the girl’s gotta eat whether I’m there or not; for me it’s about being able to sit back and enjoy the smell s and anticipation of a great meal in the making. Even the clatter of pots and pans is soothing to me when I’m not the percussionist. Yes, you can get all this at a restaurant, but they’re doing it for dosh, under a degree of duress which means that no matter how good the food, it’s ultimately an impersonal experience.
Likewise, even though I have at my disposal a veritable cornucopia of excellent pastries and brioche from local cafes, all pale in comparison beside her home-made mandarin syrup cake, or better still her afghans .
Yes, to me – as someone who thinks and talks about food a great deal- too much really- and cooks most nights – the very best meal is always the one cooked by somebody else.