The title of this blog, or at least the title of the half of the posts that I write, should probably be called If I Can Do It, So Can You. I sometimes feel inept in the kitchen, especially when trying to improvise. Each time I end up with a perfectly done, balanced and beautiful dish, it seems something of a miracle that it emerged from beneath my hands. This is especially true with meat. When I say meat, I mean the flesh of all living things. Red meat, chicken, pork, and fish. Oh, fish; especially you. You name it, I've destroyed it with a wayward recipe interpretation or extra flick of the spice jar.
When Mary and I first started dating, I tried to impress her with my culinary prowess. I had never had a girlfriend before, and I was convinced I was going to do it right, the whole having a girlfriend thing. I was going to be a gourmet lesbian. Mary told me her favorite food was pork, so I searched for the easiest pork recipe I could find. That recipe included a couple of pork chops from a Manhattan grocery store, a packet of dehydrated onion soup mix, and . . . (wait for it) . . . apple sauce. You think I'm kidding? I'm not. After a few choked-down bites, it was clear that Mary was in it for more than my nonexistent pork-cooking skills. We scrapped the rest of that meal, and I didn't make pork again for a few years.
Another unfortunate meat incident received the very appropriate label of "Cinna-beef". I had purchased some grass-fed ground beef from the co-op, so things were looking good when it all began. We set out to make our trusty standby of ground beef tacos, tried and true. Unfortunately, fate intervened. I had read an interview with Rick Bayless of recent Top Chef Masters fame, in which Chef Bayless pronounced that the addition of cinnamon made Mexican cuisine unique. That night, after I added the spices to the beef, it was still lacking flavor. We had run out of chile powder. And so I thought immediately of the Vietnamese cinnamon we had recently purchased on a trip to Seattle. And Rick Bayless. And I sprinkled that cinnamon in, effectively ruining what could have been a week's worth of delicious taco lunches. The unfortunate part of all of this was that I knew how nutritious (and expensive) this beef was. I still ate it (cinnamon flavor and all) for lunch each day that week. We still haven't had tacos since then. Mary feels we need to put some distance between the Cinna-beef incident and subsequent taco creations, and I can't help but agree.
Then there was that time when I bought the cheapest fish at the farmers' market. To be honest, I don't remember what it was called. I just remember that it took all my might to eat half of it. From that experience I learned not to buy the cheapest fish at the farmers' market. There's probably a reason it's the cheapest.
In between all these culinary learning opportunities, there have been some wild successes. The good thing is that successes seem to happen in direct proportion to the supposed failures. I try to remind myself whenever I feel like a total hack that the kitchen disasters are what make the successes possible. They also make you feel great when you make something you actually consider palatable, like I did the other day. What makes that success even better? When your girlfriend loves it, and you can finally say you successfully made pork that was delicious.
With all this in mind, I'd like to reiterate: If I can do it, so can you. Go forth and try to braise some pork shoulder the next time you have a few hours to spend near the kitchen.
On a surprisingly related note, remember last week when we invited you to comment on our post to win one of three books, and then the comments didn't work? Yeah, I remember that, too. Comments are actually fixed now, for real. This technology thing can be a bit like meat, and sometimes you need practice to get it right. We'd like to invite you again to comment here. We'll then pick someone randomly to receive a copy of Fat, Ratio or Super Natural Cooking.
Now. What's today's motto? "If I can do it, so can you." That's right, kids.