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Confessions of a Dilettante Food Blogger

dunce-caps

It is not uncommon these days for a friend to remark that they are embarrassed to bring a dish to a pot luck I’m attending, or have me to dinner because I am a “food expert.” I’ll give you that I’m a pretty good cook, and that I spend a lot of time reading about food, watching foodie TV and listening to podcasts about food, but there are gaping holes in my knowledge and experience sufficient to make me something of a dilettante rather than an “expert.” Maybe if I confess a few “home truths,” those near and dear to me will stop worrying, and start sharing in the confidence that I will not rush home and write about the dry noodles sticking out of the edges of their lasagna, or the fact that they grill their steak until it could be used to re-sole Doc Martens. I won’t.

Confession #1: I burn stuff all the time. There is a little gavotte that takes place in Forest Street Kitchen on a regular basis. I start cooking something at a prudent temperature, get impatient and turn it up, get distracted by another dish, or facebook, or a phone call, and Rob notices the food on the Edge of Incineration and turns it down. If he turns it down, I get annoyed and tell him I was too paying attention, andΒ  stand fixedly in front of the stove until it’s cooked. If Rob doesn’t notice it, or if he’s too late, it burns. I burn rice, soup, sauces, vegetables…I am an equal opportunity burner.

Confession #2: I have never had any real truffle. Truffle oil, yes, truffle butter, yes, but I have never even seen a “live” truffle. I just thought you should know.

Confession #3: There are, at this moment, Doritos, Iced Animal Cookies, American Cheese and (forgive me, Lord) Kraft Parmesan Cheese in this house. (At least the latter is the kind that’s shreds of cheese instead of the powdery stuff that looks like dandruff). I think there may also be a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese in the pantry.

Confession #4: I know absolutely nothing about wine. I like it, some is red and some is white, and it comes from different countries including (surprisingly) Australia. I know that I am not supposed to like it if it’s sweet, even if it tastes good, and that I am supposed to let the waiter or sommelier uncork it and pour me a bit in a fancy restaurant so that I can smell and taste it and say whether it’s okay. Let’s just say that Meryl Street has nothing, nothing on me when it comes to pretending to know how to put on that kind of performance. I hear and read snippets about wine so that I can say, with a certain panache, “I’d like the Shiraz,” and I know that I am to nod sagely when others delve into notes and varietals. That’s it.

Confession #5: I don’t know much about beer, either. Guinness is dark and heavy (and I like it) and people stare at you if you order Blue Moon in December. Other than that, I order whatever the most astute beer drinker at the table is having.

Confession #6: I like Mac Donald’s cheeseburgers. Not every day, but there is some magical alchemy that takes place when white bun meets patty, cheese food, pickle and condiments, and I find it sublime when I’m in the right mood.

Confession #7: Until recently I told people that I loved sushi, but I had never actually eaten anything other than a California Roll. I am now in the clear, having eaten “real” sushi (with sashimi in it) on a number of occasions, but I did lie so that I would appear more sophisticated.

Confession #8: I once ordered Feijoada, the speciality dish of the Portuguese in a restaurant in Boston (in order to appear sophisticated, natch), and was so embarrassed that I didn’t know what to do with all the parts (and there are a lot of parts) that, rather than asking, I spent the whole meal trying to hide the condiments by blending them into the stew. Until I found what was clearly a pig foot in the stew, at which point I told my dining companions that I was feeling sick and I went home. It has been 16 years, and they are still laughing at me.

Confession #9: I panic when asked to “bring a dish to pass” because I have made such a big deal out of my Culinary Mastery-hood that I think I’ll look ridiculous if I show up with hummus and pita, chips and salsa, or a dish of homemade macaroni. I will often spend hours looking through recipes to dazzle people (more than half of whom are under the age of 12) with my prowess, and often end up so exhausted and demoralized that I end up making…hummus and pita or a dish of homemade macaroni and cheese. Every time this happens I tell myself that my contribution is eaten up, and that people really appreciate something humble made well (and leave things like the tuna-mango mousse with Quinoa crackers to desiccate on the buffet table), but then my amnesia kicks in again.

Confession #10: I never believe anything I cook is going to turn out. Never. It usually does, but I anxiously wait to see if bread will rise, cakes will be moist, sauce will be balanced, every single time no matter how many times I have successfully made the same dish. When things turn out well, I tell myself it’s no big deal because I should be able to cook anything, at this point. When the rice is crunchy, the Buche de Noel falls apart as it’s rolled, the fried chicken remains uncooked in the middle or the long-cooked casserole is bland and uninviting, I feel justified in my eternal vigilance. This is why I am not likely to be a candidate on “The Next Food Network Star” any time soon.

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About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

9 responses »

  1. Feijoada–a Saturday specialty in Brazil–we tried it when we were in Rio de Janeiro and I have to admit, I had no idea what to do with the side dishes most significantly that farofa (cassava flour). Do you eat it separately, mix it in the stew, sprinkle it on top? I did like it, but didn’t love it. No pork feet, though.
    I will admit, your confessions assuaged my fears of cooking for you, too. Since so many of them could be mine (Dale bought me a Kraft Mac & Cheese box yesterday-a guilty pleasure, like McDonald’s cheeseburgers). This post will obviously achieve what it’s meant to and I expect you’ll reap the rewards: i.e. others will cook stuff for you.

    Reply
  2. Ann,

    After recovering from the intense guilty feeling that I have covertly overhead a close friends confessional, I realize that open honesty is probably a liberating activity.

    You have no Idea how good it feels to know that you have (“I think there may also be” ….right…) a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese in the pantry.

    OK OK this is more than I can stand. OK, I have never seen Sweeny Todd. There, I said it…. Or read Zorba the Greek. Oh, now she knows….. Or that I have never………. Must-Stop-Confessing!

    Whatever inspired this blog was not all bad, maybe all of your readers will be inspired to come clean…….

    Reply
  3. Let’s face it. A McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese is GOOD. I’m amazed each time I bite into it and it’s delicious. This dish to pass thing gets me too. Among some people I’m known as a pretty good cook and I panic whenever I cook for people and tend to be really mean to my poor husband who may make the mistake of asking me a simple question. I like this subject because I think, in general, we all try to act like something we are not and live to some invisible standard that some unknown person set, whether it is with food, cleanliness of our house, rules for our children whatever. People lie about how long their babies sleep at night bc they don’t feel they measure up. Is there a “Confessions of a housewife” book out there?? We should write one!

    Reply
  4. Okay, let me clear this up: I CAN cook; I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. Hell, I make my own stock and bake my own bread. πŸ™‚ I was just feeling a little silly. That being said,

    Eric, I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only person who didn’t love the feijoada. I later learned that the pig foot was typical of Brazilian feijoada…it didn’t help. I have never thought for a moment that you couldn’t cook for me – the things you have written about making tell me that you are a creactive and good cooker. I can’t wait. πŸ™‚

    Robert, it’s all true. I do have people in the house who eat things other than oysters and truffle butter. (Particularly The Kid). I wish I could say he ate nothing but organis sweet potato chips and Greek Yogurt but…I can’t. You should check out “Sweeney Todd” some time…I love it. (I’ve never read “Zorba,” either).

    Michelle, the issue you raise is one of my all-time favorites. It’s why I write things like this – I like to let people know that other people are insecure screw ups, too. (Don’t be mean to Todd).

    Reply
  5. I would serve you frozen pizza and Twinkies.

    Reply
  6. I have to stop laughing now… my sides hurt!! This hit so close to home you have NO idea!
    I used to teach cooking classes. I am , like you, a darnfine cook, but I am no chef. I never had formal training and everything I know I learned by reading and asking questions and doing,…mostly doing!
    When my students saw me take a shortcut , i.e. use pre-made puff pastry of canned broth I told them my motto: It’s not what you do. It’s what they THINK you do!
    I still have people who refuse to invite me for a meal at their homes because the don’t “cook fancy”! HA! If they ever saw me eating some of the things I prepare for myself they would be amazed!!!!

    Reply
  7. Please correct my doofus typo. I meant to write “puff pastry OR canned broth”.

    *hangs head*

    thanks!

    Reply
  8. Mary, sans doubt.

    Trisha, I’m glad to have a kindred spirit. I hear the “I can’t cook for you” thing so often, and I wonder whether they think my carnivorous farm-boy husband and my 12 year old are being served Chateaubriand and Trout Almondine. Not so much. It is what they think you do – knowing how to create those thoughts is a skill in and of itself. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  9. Please don’t write “carnivorous farm-boy husband” again. And, just so you know, I claim “not so much” as my buzzword…ppl ’round here have come to expect it from me…(you can use it, just give me credit)

    Reply

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