a few bits on cooking.

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Let’s talk about cooking for a change, shall we?

And look, I’m not too far into this cooking thing. You may have 15-20 years on me. I get asked a bunch about cooking, and I love being able to have an answer. I like answers. I don’t have many of them in other areas of my life. But with cooking, there are some things that are just plain right. (Or are at least ‘a’ right way…)

Yeah, there’s intuition. Repetition.
(In my head, I can still hear my babely french professor *swoon* as she would say, “Ok, alors, repetez avec moi!“)
Repetez, repetez, repetez!
Then there are tricks of the trade.

They are not tricks. (Nor are they illusions, Michael…)
They are just plain old things, really, that we pick up from cook to cook. Kitchen to kitchen.

Let’s start with heat.

Kitchens are hot. They are hot because there is fire generally going all the time. It looks different. Some kitchens these days have wood fires in them. Mostly, they are in the form of gas burners, ovens, etc.

When you cook food to order, a lot of times, you’re trying to get it from either cold or room temperature to HOT, or at least to the temperature you need to serve it at. This means getting your pan super duper hot. Sometimes smoking hot. I’d say if your meat is sticking to your pan, it is not hot enough. Metal expands and contracts, as you know. When your pan is hot enough, the metal is expanded. Your pan is technically gripping your food when it’s not heated properly.

Same with roasting. Hight heat is great when roasting vegetables. It adds good color (in the form of caramelization of sugars). Getting color on vegetables is a good thing. There’s so much sugar there, especially in carrots and onions. Which is awesome because they also benefit from slow and low cooking as well.

Yes. Cook at hotter temperatures. Don’t listen to me if your baking sweets. I’m mostly talking savory whole foods here.

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Fat, fat, fat.
You can watch Dr. Oz these days and he’ll tell you the same thing. It’s true. Fat is good. Obviously, fat is flavor. Use it, please. Your vegetable/canola oil spread is not saving you any health points. Cook your vegetables in good olive oil and/or butter or other animal fat. Your body benefits from that, and fat actually helps your body absorb nutrients from ‘said’ vegetables. I read that in a book once, and my doc told me so as well. Your kids might eat em’ if you go ahead and sauté that broccoli with a little pad of butter. If they don’t, then invite me over. I will certainly eat your kids’ vegetables.

Shallots. Use them more.

Herbs. Yes!

Garlic. Lemon or orange zest. They add so much to a dish. Get a microplane and keep it close.

Let food sit overnight before eating and/or cooking it.
Give meat some time to absorb salt and seasonings.
Let the air evaporate some of its water.
Your soup will taste better the next day. I guarantee it. And, you’ll have a peace of mind knowing dinner is already made!

Buy one good sharp knife and cutting board.

Temperature is texture.

Freshly ground black pepper. All the time.

Learn how to make béchamel. Or as southerners call it, “Gravy”.
This is a mother sauce. The matriarch of comfort food.
It is the beginning of macaroni and cheese. Chicken pot pie. Sausage gravy. Mornay (which is béchamel with grated cheese melted into it.)

2 tablespoons butter melted in a pan. 2 tablespoons flour whisked into melted butter for two minutes. Add 1-2 cups of milk. Cook low, stirring, until it starts to thicken and bubble. Boom. You’re a hero!

Try fermenting a vegetable or two. Create your own ingredient with your own flavor. It’s great, and it’s yours. Start with sauerkraut and work your way through kimchi and then go wherever your heart desires. Good for ya, too!

Last thing:

TASTE YOUR FOOD. Taste, taste, taste. All the way, taste. That is the best way to learn how to season a dish. Develop your palette. How will you cook better tasting food if you don’t know what to aim for?

I could go on with another thousand words, but I will spare you.

Instead, ask me a question if you’d like. I realize this is the internet, so you can ask anyone, anything, at any time. But I’m always here to help. It is my day job, so I do like to do my part in this world.

(And seriously, if you have a plate for me, I’ll be over soon. I’m always hungry and will wash your dishes.)

sugar and dirt. (thoughts on being an old soul)

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I am often accused of being an old soul.

Why? I don’t know.

I think it’s because I’m quiet and a wallflower and can hang with folks older than me.

“You’re only 27!?”

And I understand. My balding head, nodding to your adult stories, tossing in a few bits like double dutch, whenever I’m ready to make sense of it all.
Fair enough. I am an old soul. But something tells me deep down, there’s more to it.

I’ve been around other dudes in their late 20’s and I feel as though I missed some pivotal growing stage. Like maybe I just jumped over it because I didn’t feel like it would work for me.

I’m grossed out by arrogance and too much pride. (Granted, blogging is all about ‘me, me, me’, but there is something hard to swallow when I have to listen to people build themselves like a personal resume. “People tell me I’m amazing…I dunno…I’m just a guy, ya know?”)

Yes, you are just a guy.

I’m noticing this is something single dudes develop at some point when looking for a mate… (or to mate, for that matter. Whichever is more lucrative.)

Whatever. Just a stick in the mud right? I suppose old souls get tagged with that too. Grandpa. Uncle. Mr. Business. I’ve been called it all, at the expense of the other person feeling good about their stamina and/or free spirit. Or whatever I’m supposed to call it.

When deep deep down, I’m learning more and more how to be childlike. If anything, growing up in traumatic situations makes you age quicker than your friends. Like when they’re going camping for the weekend, and you are torn with which parent to spend it with or whether or not you feel safe going home. That loss of innocence is world-changing. And because it’s your world, not everyone will notice the changes you have to make to survive it all.

theatlantic.com

theatlantic.com

I learn from little ones. How they feel and how they feel misunderstood. We all keep misunderstanding each other. We all really want to understand. Some of us don’t, and I suppose that’s okay. But we are all still moving in the ways fear makes us move – when we listen to bad voices and have a hard time loving ourselves.

I mean, sheesh! I was terrible to myself last night.
I sat alone in my room, thinking how sad it was that the Panda Express I was consuming was so, so awesome in the thick of everything going down in my life. And that I was watching a sad show and it was stormy outside. I felt so rightly alone. Nothing but the sound of the dog’s breath coming from under the door. (No doubt, the string bean chicken aroma was calling his keen nose to its source…)

I ran through all these scenarios in my head of what loneliness looks like and why it was such a bad thing.

A roommate of mine saying, “I feel sad for you”, was not what I wanted to hear. But whatever. I had my chow mein. I was okay. I appreciated the sentiment, but unless I really know you, those words are a little haunting.

We are all filled with bits of wisdom. Especially the little ones who take joy in small things. How they are straight up when they feel sad or alone. How they learn what is good and bad. Such important and strong little things.

Somehow we are all taught to be quiet. To lower our voices. To speak only when it’s appropriate. Maybe I believed in that too much.
Either way, I am always humbled by the minds of our little ones, as they wander and somehow always smell like sugar and dirt.

So as I continue to think of myself as an old soul, I will embrace it like a friend.

And whatever it is people deem as being an old soul, so be it.

Just know, that I am dreaming and electricity is pulsing through my bones. I am not done. I’m not even close.

I have a ways to go before it all catches up.

Then again, in the words of my doc, “…you’re a spring chicken!”

So, you never know what could happen, really…