When I was on my own this summer, I devised a cooking routine. I went to Hannaford, bought a package of “use today or freeze” meat, took it home and divided it into single serving freezer bags. Soon I had a lovely array of entrees available. Every evening, I would pull out a cast-iron frying pan, dump the frozen meat in with some frozen vegetables, put an old flat iron on it, turn it on low, and ignore it. When the smoke reached the living room, I knew it was done. So what if the outside was charred? The inside was usually still fresh and cool.
Many creative people are also fantastic cooks, which makes my incompetence even more shameful. Last week I had a great vegetarian dish prepared by painter Brad Marshall and his wife, and two fantastic dinners made by my artist pal Toby. Sadly, when they come to see me in Maine, I’ll offer them the menu for the flatbread pizza place across the street.
My daughter Laura likes to tell me, “If you cook what you like, you’ll enjoy cooking.” Well, I like beef, lamb and fish, and I like beets, lima beans and salad greens. I just don’t like what they turn into when I’ve handled them. And, anyways, I’ve seldom met foods I don’t like. I’m afraid I’m more of a glutton than a discriminating gourmet.
Sometimes people accuse me of pretending to be helpless in order to get out of meal preparation. After they’ve eaten my cooking, they never say that again.
I once tried to help my pal Pamela (a professional chef) make sandwiches for a crowd. I thought I was doing great, but her verdict was: “You require a high degree of supervision.”
You can’t blame this on lack of experience. My mother was an excellent and unflappable cook. She was also the cooking teacher for our 4H group. By the time I hit my double-digit years, I could turn out a basic meal. I also learned to bake in 4H, and that lesson stuck—I can make pies, cakes and cookies. The problem is, I’m not supposed to eat them. And that may be the root of the problem: nothing I can make is good for me.
The nadir of my domestic career was when my daughter quietly puked up her lasagna in her plate rather than complain about dinner. That was my first real intimation that something was horribly wrong—and it wasn’t my child’s manners.
These days I’m cohabitating with a man who is a wonderful cook. I remember that food can actually taste good. This is bound to lead to disappointment, as he has only five years left on his 20 year cooking rota. After that, I’m afraid I’m back on duty.