Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Allez Cuisine!

I love to cook, and I love nothing more than the chance to create something spectacular when friends and family come over. In fact, it's become a point of pride and my family and friends have come to be excited when they arrive because they'll be treated to something they haven't tried before, usually somewhat exotic.
I thoroughly enjoy cooking Japanese food, and have dabbled in Moroccan and Indian multiple times. I have specialty pans for cooking foods from those countries.
Last night I had a good friend over who insisted on cooking us dinner. She rendered an absolutely fabulous Italian meal that made my house smell glorious and left us with a huge bowl of leftovers to be doled out over the next few days.
I raved over it because it was so many simple ingredients put together in an outstanding way. She insisted it was very simple, and I watched her intently the entire time to see how it was made. She had it put together and done in about half an hour. I was astounded.
She was a sweetheart and commented on how I was incredibly good with exotic and unique foods and how she enjoyed when I'd cooked those. But as we talked it slowly made me realize that yes, I can whip up okonomiyaki or pumpkin scallop soup a la the French recipes I have.... but I don't have a friend chicken recipe. I can't make biscuits from scratch. Meatloaf still eludes me in its proper creation. And I can't even think of normal food to make for dinner.
As we talked I realized that the reason I avoid food from my native country is that I feel intimidated. I have fond memories of foods from my youth, but I realize I don't know how to make them. It worries me that I will look up a recipe online and make it, and it will taste nothing like what I remember. Why this is such a mental block to me, I'm unsure. Perhaps it's my fear of failing -something long acknowledged as able to completely paralyze me. But at the same time I think it's that I have always just associated these things with my Mom and Dad, and not something that I cook.
It is now a goal of mine to remember meals from when I was younger and either attempt to get the recipe from my Mom (something I've requested before but that never materialized, as she's a busy lady) or try to find something off the internet that sounds very similar to what I had.
Amusingly, the hardest part of all of this will be recalling what I used to eat. In my lengthening age I find that i tend to remember the meals I did NOT like, or the odd incidents by the notorious Great Scrambled Eggs Fight of 1988 (we had to clean dried egg off the ceiling). Just recalling a regular meal is proving to be surprisingly hard!
My first attempt will be making tacos, something that we had often when I was younger. The cooking ground beef with the spice packet, the crunchy shells, the squishy sour cream... I remember these things. I remember many variations on it too... taco salad, burritos... 6 ingredients served up many different ways with many happy associations.
There must be more, but I can only recall this and chicken a la king (not a favorite). Side dishes like mashed potatoes and fried okra sneak in to my mind. But you can't make a meal of just those. Well... you could, but it'd be damned odd and not very healthy.
Over the next few days, probably in to the next few weeks or months, I'm going to have to sit down and write up a list of things -everything- that I remember from when I was younger. Desserts, drinks, smells, are all going on a piece of paper as I try to remember what exactly sustained me and got me to this point - something that I find strangely and disturbingly hard to recall. Perhaps attention should be paid to that strange blank spot my mind holds up when I think on this, but for now I just want to remember what the hell I shoveled in my mouth as a youngster.
I suspect it won't be healthy. After all... I come from Southern stock. That makes it something I'm really looking forward to, even so.

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