Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Learning how to cook is not something I set out to do, it is something that came to me and never let me go. The concept of food and what is edible, and how food has developed over centuries has always fascinated me. As a student I was a history and art history major, something that dabbled in food but mostly taught me that all parts of human development and world history are interconnected. It is the concept of killing the butterfly back in time (isn't that Ray Bradbury?), if one event had not happened, if one ruler hadn't decided to change the rules, life as we know it would not be the same as it is today. This concept always comes to me when I think of food. The fact of the matter is, I live in California and do not have to depend on the elements as much as, say, the Russians did when trying to feed themselves in the dead of winter, or the Italians did when the peasants had to stretch stale bread and some greens across several days. I get to walk down the street to Whole Foods or the Rainbow Market, where the tomatoes are ripe and the lemons always juice just enough. This means, I have no excuse not to make cooking a definitive part of my everyday life.
Yes, San Francisco, and the surrounding areas, are full of incredible restaurants. I have about 8 I can think of within a 5 minute walk of my SOMA condo, but I have always been a homebody. Eating out can be an enjoyable experience, but you miss out on the smells, the excitment of knowing that the experiment you put in the oven 30 minutes ago is actually going to be edible (and delicious!) and then there is the satisfaction of giving a gift to your friends and family that is beautiful, tantalizing, and nourishing. And the gift to myself that I can do all of this in my sweats and drink as much wine as I want with no need to worry about driving. Two very good things if you ask me. But going out is not enough of a challenge for me. All I have to do is decide between a few dishes that have been tested by professionals to be delicious and then sit and wait until someone serves me. No, I don't want that. I want the sweating and the worrying, the burns on my wrists from dumb mistakes, which I make again and again, the triumph and glory when I can call up a girlfriend and say, I made the best dinner last night. Cooking and the following eating are activities that scratch every human sense. The emotions, the worry, the ego and arrogance, the dismay and regret, all these things are incredibly beautiful when carried out in my kitchen.