Honey… What did you make for dinner?

A mess… I made a mess! That’s what I thought earlier tonight. Early in my cooking career I really wasn’t very good. By that I mean I was awful, burnt cookies, split hollandaise, raw chicken awful. I couldn’t understand why? I mean I know all the cooking principles, I understand the science, I had the best lecturers, cookbooks and tools. I simply didn’t get it.

Years later I was standing in a kitchen watching a starter dough ferment (if you have never done this, it’s not quick) and it dawned on me. I am impatient. My food is bad because I am impatient. I don’t want to wait for the bread to leaven properly, I don’t allow the sauce to reduce for 3 minutes longer and I can’t be bothered to concassé that tomato well. After this realisation I immediately worked on this weakness. I made a point of following every step, savouring every taste, aroma and feel of the food and my cooking improved ten-fold.

Years later I tried to instil this in my first year cooking students. “Read your recipe” and “Taste your food” became my mantras but alas very few listened to me. And I still had to evaluate pesto made from dried bay leaves and cooking oil and eat meringues made with salt instead of sugar.

I have now been cooking for almost 9 years and tonight I realised that old habits are hard to break. Coming home from work extremely tired I wanted to cook something quickly. I was half-way through preparing the meal when I suddenly looked around me. There was Worcestershire sauce pooled on my chopping board ( and splashed against the wall), carrot off-cuts were strewn all over my workspace, I had used at least 6 spoons to mix once sauce and the food was not even in the oven. I was gutted, what happened to me?!

Then I realised. I was rushing, I was being impatient. Good food does not necessarily take a lot of time but it does take patience. It takes thoughtfulness and interest and it should never be done just for the sake of getting it done. I immediately slowed down and tried to salvage what I could. I started to taste, feel and love this simple meal. The end-result might not have been a Michelin meal but my husband ate it. It made him happy and that made me happy.

I added the featured image as a reminder to myself. That I need to remember the lessons culinary art has taught me and to remind myself that patience really is a virtue, in the kitchen and out of it.

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