I recently acquired a new hobby. I take food items and mix, bake, grill, chill, slice and dice them, (all sans a Slap Chop, mind you) transforming them into delicious other food items. Eggs become omelets! Celery becomes ants on a log! Hamburger becomes…hamburgers! Food is always better plural.
How the media hasn’t blown this fad outta portion yet, I don’t know. (Food jokes!)
I’ve decided to call this newfangled activity “cooking” (let me have this), and it’s great because it inevitably leads to om-nom-noming. Not to mention that the gorgeous glow I get upon devouring half a pound of turkey bacon in my favorite breakfast quiche is almost akin to exercising. Almost.
I’m not sure exactly what prompted my passion for the culinary arts except that whenever Clay and I have a free evening, it always seems to turn into an Iron Chef episode. Think more jammies and less narration. For awhile, we stopped going out on Fridays at all. That was scary. Then there was our last shopping trip to Wal-Mart:
Clayton (adamantly): “We need a spatula!”
Me (thrilled): “They come in different colors! I want purple! No, red! Green!”
Clayton (suddenly alarmed): “Ea-sy…”
Me (instantly out of control): “We also need a can opener! Tongs? An egg thing-a-ma-jig!? Spaghetti strainer!!”
Clayton (cautiously): “Ok, Cass. One at a time. Can openers appear to come in all different prices and sizes here. Look, this one has a grippy rubber handle.”
Me: Overwhelmed silence and reverence
I also can’t leave out all the Hy-Vee trips where a certain cart boy inevitably greets us with a demanding “Ladies first!” every time we approach the entrance. On cue, Clay and I rowdily push one another out of the way to get inside first, running off of love’s purest, truest and most gentle adrenaline (him – testosterone; me -feminism). This irritates the cart boy.
Once inside, we freeze instantly in our tracks, always stunned by the life-sized cardboard cutout of Ellen DeGeneres—whoops, that’s Curtis Stone.
Then, onto fruits and veggies. We don’t make it out of the produce section for a good 15 to 20 minutes, and trips that should take half an hour become twice as long as I explore new ingredients with the tenacity of a kid at an ice cream parlor. I stop investigating the mangoes, white asparagus and herbs only when I see Clay taking a trip of his own to frown town.
Our cart slowly becomes filled with random ingredients we’ll most likely hate – papaya and Korean pear – and of course, wine. You know, for the cooking. We exit the store past a now wordless cart boy, satisfied until the next time we get a food fetish.
One time we went to Hy-Vee four days out of the week.
Once back in the kitchen, I immediately take over as sous chef because I excel at vital tasks like pouring wine, washing produce because men consider dirt just another seasoning, and of course, stirring. Nothing makes you feel more important than having yourself a good stir. It’s also a great way to look busy in an effort to avoid cutting onions. (For the love of God, someone teach me already)
The more we cook, the more we like to think our tastes become increasingly refined. Our meals consist of seafood more often than not, and it’s a must that red or white wine appear on the list of ingredients. And, although our dishes only call for a ½ cup of it or less, we feel obligated to finish the bottle because we hate waste. Life is so hard sometimes.
I keep with the evening’s theme of pure sophistication and class by setting the coffee table in front of the TV with paper towels, covering our water glasses with coasters to ensure Chloe doesn’t dunk her head into them. As I do, I can’t help but think how wonderful it is to have a hobby where I’m constantly learning and trying new things. It’s my special time alone with Clayton, where we bond over the entire process of creating and eating a meal we made ourselves — garlicky hands, burnt pancakes, “natural turkey casing” and all.