Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A meal maven I'm not

One thing I am not doing as I get older: Getting better at cooking. What I am doing is getting better at cooking without cooking. I can make a pretty impressive salad, complete with pine nuts and four kinds of lettuce. I can artfully arrange pita chips around a swirl of store-bought hummus with a little sprinkle of paprika on it. So I guess it's fair to say that putting out uncooked food is my forte. ("Forte" may be an exaggeration since it takes me three times as long as anyone else to cut up a cucumber.)

It's not that I can't cook at all. I'm now expected to bring a batch of potato kugel muffins to every Passover seder. I guess you would call that my signature dish. But, generally, I'm not confident when having to put food into an oven, watch it, possibly baste it regularly, and then know when it's done—with or without a food thermometer. When it finally comes out of the oven, I can't trust myself to slice it properly. Against the grain? With the grain? And which way is the grain going anyway?

I always thought that when I cut back on working (I'm now down to three days a week) I'd have the time to try new recipes and practice my culinary skills. But that hasn't happened. Besides contributing to mealtime only by making salads, I excel at collecting menus from nearby restaurants like Corner Bakery or Go Roma or the carry-out Szechwan palace down the street.

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