Monday, June 26, 2006

Let Me Know If You See It...It's Wearing Those Funky Checked Pants

I have a friend who feels that he has lost his Mojo. And in that act of solidarity that is unique to long-time friendships, I have tossed mine by the wayside as well. At least my Dinner Time Mojo.

I came, about seven months ago, into my own--if you will--with cooking. I am a daydreaming chef, a foodie, who has always been a decent, if tentative, cook. But a while back everything just clicked. I was purchasing any cut of meat, any strange vegetable, without thought, confidently knowing exactly what to do with them before I had even left the market, without looking up internet recipes.

What brought it on? I had no idea at the time. I merely knew I relished the abandon with which I was plating veal chops and a sophisticated yet thrown-together-at-the-last-minute mushroom/thyme gravy. Simple scallops in the fridge? Not ordinary tonight, my friend, as I use the last couple of Sicilian blood oranges to make a delicious reduction to drizzle them with. The peculiar thing about it was that my kitchen confidence appeared overnight, performing like I had always cooked so freely. I thought nothing about it, felt no need to dissect it, knew it was a permanent part of me.

But that was not to be. The other day I stopped by the meat market and longlingly surveyed the expensive cuts of meat, wondering what would I fix, and more importantly, how? I eyed the veal chops, cut two inches thick and thought back to try to remember how to cook them. I had no idea, and felt nervous, unsure. I knew then I had lost it as easily as it had appeared. After purchasing "cheat" meals (enchilada kits, chicken breasts, salmon filets) for the week, and depositing them into the fridge, I drove to Starbucks with an uneasy sense that I needed to regroup. Olivia sat in her carrier, napping, while I nursed a cappucino and my cooking ego. I tried to retrace my culinary steps and pinpoint the exact moment that my confidence slipped. And I figured it out.

My cooking muse came, migraine tucked under one arm, nausea under the other, with the sleep deprivation. It apparently was compensation from the gods for those sleepless nights. Or maybe it was those sleepless nights themselves that gave me a slight insanity that had no room for insecurity about what to do with a few miscellaneous food items and an iron skillet. Whether it was cause or effect, who would know? All I could see was that with sleep, my cooking ability had taken a seemingly permanent nap.

With Olivia's maturing and developing an ability to sleep (almost) straight through (she is never going to be a solid snoozer like Jake was), I have seriously regressed in the kitchen. So now I purchase brownie mixes, Stouffer's, and steaks to pair with a humble baked potato. I miss my relationship with my inner-Jamie Oliver. I don't want to not sleep at night, but I sure would like my Mojo back. Everything with children has a trade-off.


Walter said...

Excellent writing. Two thumbs up for this blog!

But what's the matter with chicken breasts, salmon filets, brownie mixes, Stouffer's, and enchilada kits? Throw in a few canned vegetables and you have dinner for a month. I suspect you are going to be shocked at what you are going to be "fed" when you come visit. Uh-oh.

monkey said...

this is a serious problem! start loosening up your cooking muscles with a few simple exercises. let's start small... the chicken breasts need a mango salsa on the side... the salmon filets yearn for a cool yogurt dill sauce, the brownies need extra walnuts and a cream cheese frosting. stouffers... well... you're on your own there and as far as the enchiladas go - guacamole!!

don't forget your cooking tiara - very important for getting your mojo back.

let me know if you need any more inspiration. i'll be happy to apply for the position of culinary muse-on-call if the position is open.

deliciously yours,


tracy said...

glad to see you are writing again, I missed it these past few days. Oh the mojo, how it comes and goes...see for me, never had it, never will.

Jack said...

Alas! This post has still not clarified "mojo" for me. Google was no help. I wonder if mine is rising or working at all.

Mixes will kill your cooking. Actually, it was kids that killed my cooking, but I blame it on the constant junk: mac&cheese, ramen noodles, and mac&cheese, but mostly more mac&cheese. Who can remember how to cook after making that?

My favorite quick-mix ingredient: Hatch mexican green sauce. Bring a case back from Albuquerque. Bring some Hatch red sauce too, just for variety. How should I make this steak? (A: green sauce.) Hmmm, these eggs for breakfast sure taste bland and plain without green sauce. Fish is too good to mess with, but if you accidentally overcook it, then green sauce. You can occasionally substitute red, but not on the fish. Too lazy to cook at all? Tortillas, muenster cheese, and green sauce in layers, nuked in the microwave until bubbly. Yum! I think I feel my mojo rising. (Maybe.) Better make it two cases.