Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cooking Up a Storm

One needs a big head to fill such a hat.
Ever since my husband and I decided to host weekly dinners for other couples, both relatives and friends, I've been practicing the art of cooking.

The Art of Cooking, mind you. From scratch, using all natural ingredients. The Real Deal.

The ideal in the back of my mind is, of course, Julia Child. And one of my driving motivations is to impress our guests with my effortless mastery of all things culinary, including the arcane fine points where cooking becomes alchemy. Who needs stewed tomatoes when you can make tomato sauce from real tomatoes?   Canned foods are beneath The Chef's dignity, and unworthy of our most excellent guests, say I, with an elegant flourish of my whisk. 

One day, when I am old and accomplished, I shall flutter around the kitchen like a diva on her stage, in perfect command of my orchestra of vegetables, meats, pastas, fruits, wines, pastries. It will be a simmering symphony of scents, a veritable heaven for The Husband, who will enter my sanctuary only to nod approvingly and perhaps taste an exquisite bit of sauce before wandering off and straightening a fork on the already-set table. 

One day I will get there.  But for now, I am usually hunched anxiously over an online recipe on my laptop, which is perched precariously on the baby's plastic high chair. There are road blocks on my way to greatness: figuring out how to convert ounces to kilograms, realizing after the fact that I should have started the sauce before making the salad and that-- oh God-- I forgot a key ingredient. And what exactly does "browning" mean?  

Even for a neophyte, there is something so primordially fulfilling about cooking for special occasions. It's a thrill to toss the tiny pieces of garlic into a pan full of hot oil and watch them sizzle. Ladies and gentlemen, the garlic has arrived! Small but powerful! And now the onion, a force to be reckoned with! I swish them around until translucent, then toss in the green peppers. Then the tomatoes!  And then... the tour de force... the wine!  

The kitchen is soon steeped in a heavenly scent and I feel like I am working magic, engaged in an eminently creative task (even if I am just diligently following the recipe, like my mother has always insisted). The vegetables and spices are responding!  It's working!  It's going to be delicious!

And since I finished an hour later than the dinner was supposed to begin, I have an additional miracle to be grateful for: like good Mexicans, our guests are fashionably late. Two hours, to be exact. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is nine o'clock at night and... dinner is served!

Ta-ta for now... 

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