In The Kitchen · Melting Pot

Kitchen Foible

I rarely use recipes when I cook. Even when I use them, I don’t necessarily actually follow them and take time to measure things. Based on my experiences, most dishes just turn out better when things are not measured. The measurements are simply too precise, and in cooking precision is not necessarily a good thing. Usually the amounts you need for the best results are quite immeasurable. “A little more than a tablespoon” of this, or “a bit less than a cup” of that are just what the dish needs, but they’re hardly proper measurements. Sure, I can tell you to add “a pinch” of red pepper flakes (for example) to the pan. While there actually is a specific measurement for “a pinch” (1/16 teaspoon), unless you are using mini measuring spoons like these (which I do happen to own), chances are you’re going to physically pinch some pepper flakes between your thumb and index finger and toss ’em in; and what you call a pinch might not match what I call a pinch. Also, the same way that you can use measuring spoons/cups to take a scant or heaping measurement, you can take a smaller or bigger pinch. It is not going to be precise or the same every single time, even when it’s the same person cooking.

Which is the beauty of cooking. It is not exact. It is not perfect. It is simultaneously fragile yet resilient and forgiving. You can very quickly and easily screw up whatever you’re making by adding too much of any given ingredient. Thus cooking is fragile. Resilient, however, because for every “oops” moment, there’s almost always something you can do to fix it. Cooking is forgiving in that even if you messed up, the results can still be damn good. Sometimes the dish with the biggest “oops” is the one that turns out to be the most enjoyable.

I may have more “I don’t want to cook!” days than I’d like to, because truthfully I do enjoy the process of cooking. It is a very gratifying thing, to start with a few simple ingredients and in a little time, there’s a completed, delicious meal ready for your enjoyment. It’s freeing, in a way. To me, the process of cooking is calming and a bit cathartic. When I cook I throw all caution to the wind. I know that when cooking there is always a plan B (and a plan C, D, E… all through the alphabet if necessary); there’s always an alternate to fix any mistakes. There’s always an escape route. Because of this forgiving safety present in the kitchen, when I cook, I do so without fear.

Usually.

There are things I make well. I make a mean pot of chili, for example. You want biscuits & gravy? I’m your woman. I like to give myself a hard time over my cooking skills, or lack thereof, but if I’m being 100% honest, despite my limited skills there are quite a few things that I make pretty damn well.

There are, of course, also things that I cannot make.

Like fried chicken. And that sucks because I really like fried chicken. I kid you not, every attempt I have ever made to make some fried chicken has been bad enough it’s been inedible. I even fucked up Paula Deen’s recipe. Sacrilege!  For whatever reason, I just can’t make fried chicken.  Other cooking methods for chicken, I’ve got no problem with. I can bake it, broil it, grill it, pan fry it etc. I just can’t deep fry it. It has been such a disastrous dish for me that I’ve given up on it and resigned myself to the fact that if I ever want fried chicken I will have to either go to a fast food place that specializes in fried chicken or have some kind, loving soul in my life who will be willing to make it for me.

I will never understand why something so simple is impossible for me. Just one of life’s many little mysteries, I suppose. Should I ever happen to snag myself a husband, I hope that one of his talents is making fried chicken. That might sound ridiculous but there it is. The way I see it, if he is strong where I am weak, and vice versa, we would balance each other out and make a good team at all we set out to do together. That would definitely be a good thing for a relationship. I think so anyway. Then again I am a 30-something single woman whose best/longest relationship hardly made it to the one year mark, so what I think when it comes to relationships clearly doesn’t count for squat. I still think it’d be nice, though; however flawed my rationale may be.

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