Scratch That

Monday, September 8, 2008

The best sort of success in cooking is one where you feel like a God of the Kitchen.

When you're able to just throw something together, completely off the cuff, and come out with something that deserves a tribute in fireworks. A dish that just screams, "HELL YEAH! I AM THE BEST!" A meal that the people you feed it to become so jubilantly enamored with that they become torn between the decision to wolf it down due to extreme tastiness or to savor and relish each sensual, seemingly concupiscent bite.

It is these moments that make cooking such an tactile, soul imbibing practice. These little victories, these seemingly First Day equivalent creations that nourish the body and calm the mind with ecstatic joy.

Of course, there is the opposite of this. I can recall one Mediterranean style dish I tried to recreate from memory. A special dish with aromatic rice studded with pine nuts and raisins, and fresh fish just perfectly cooked with a bit of lemon and coriander.

I wasn't sure what sort of vengeful Nightmare God I apparently pissed off, but the resulting dish tasted like spite made into food. Literally, upon tasting it my mouth just opened and let the food fall back onto the plate. Very sexy. Dear Lord, that dish haunts me. The whole disaster was fed to the garbage disposal and Pizza Hut was promptly called up. It's a time like that when I understand the reasoning behind the mantra so many hold of, "Why cook when there's a phone or a restaurant nearby?"

Plus, I do like my thin crust olive n' sausage pizza. Yum!

Still, tonight the stars were aligned, my fortune cookies read positively, and I locked the damn cat in my room so he wouldn't eat my prep. (He had done so earlier this week, dissecting tomatoes and a jalapeno on the carpet.)

Everything was going perfectly.

And you could tell. The smell that floated about effortlessly enchanting those sitting about the room, becoming devoted acolytes to the sweet and savory, slightly reminiscent aromas.

Pumpkin curry with fresh leeks and onion. Delicious.

It isn't enough that I have to lightly sautee' onions and leeks with butter and olive oil, a cattle call if I ever smelled one, but I then have to go and add pumpkin, veggie stock, curry n' cayenne, and coconut milk. The end result it simply marvelous. A harmonious dichotomy of the familiar and the exotic (though I think we can now say coconut milk and curry are somewhat mainstream for many home cooks, and thus no longer exotic?). Garnish with a bit of cilantro and you are so in business.

The delight in being a scratch cook at home is the possibility. THE POTENTIAL. I think one of the most intriguing works of human creativity is the looming fear of the empty pantry and, subsequently, the empty stomach. Hunger is said to be the best spice, but it can also be the mother of creation.

Taking what few bits and pieces, what leftovers, straggling veggies, rinds of cheese, frozen chunk of meat and endless cans of neither here nor' there ingredients, and an endless spice rack and putting some kitchen equivalent to street magic in and Poof! A new dish! Ka-Zam! The best new thing out of the oven since that kiesh with all the leftover gouda, straw mushrooms, and basil from throughout the week!

The possibilities are endless if you take the moment to just sit and think it out, 10-1 there are dozens of possible meals in your pantry. You just have to sit and puzzle them together like a gustatory jigsaw.

...Unless it really has been ages since you went to the market, in that case get off the computer and go you lazy punk.

I promise to post the recipe at some point here or at Simply Recipes, at the moment I want to tinker with it just a bit more. For the most part though, you can figure it all out here from the post. It really is that easy.


  1. You're one of those people who walk along the shore, look at spiky rocks, and wonder if they're edible, aren't you?

    Someone has to start the insanity....

    I'll stick to pumpkin muffins with cranberries in them. Although I do like leeks and onions...


  2. Darn you, Garrett! I was going to make a soup so uncannily similar tonight that I am a little daunted now! I'm still going to make it haha! Take that! ;-)

  3. Hmmmmm... leeks... onions... pumpkin... it sounds amazing!

    Part of your post made me think of 'the button soup' (an old Mickey Mouse book, where the soup starts with a button in water... and then you add salt and pepper... and if you have vegetables, you can add them... and then... you see the point? :)

    It also makes me think of my boyfriend, he's totally like you said: a God in a kitchen when nothing is planned but we have some guests waiting for a meal!!

    And I just loved how you described 'the smell that floated about effortlessly'; I have a vivid imagination, and I can actually SEE it :P

  4. First of all, that soup sounds so good -- you can never go wrong with coconut milk and curry, plus pumpkin makes everything better! (Though I'm trying to hold off on the pumpkins and winter squashes for another month or two.) Second, I totally agree about those thrown-together meals. Two years ago I made a pasta dish with shrimp, asparagus, and some mystery cheese plus god knows what else that still haunts me to this day, because it was so inexplicably delicious.

  5. I'm drooling. Your soup looks amazing.

  6. That sounds fabulous! Can't wait to see the recipe.

  7. God, I love that feeling when it all comes together just right!
    And can't wait to see the soup recipe--looks amazing.


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