June 15, 2006

And the Ancestors Wept.

Spike and I attended a cooking class last night at a fun little kitchen called Chef's Inc. in West L.A.. We spent about an hour preparing a fabulous Latin-inspired feast which we greedily consumed the second it was finished. We made gazpacho, skirt steak, seasoned potatoes, corn succotash, salsa and cornmeal shortcake. It was novel to have a chance to really go all out with dinner preparation but not something I would ever turn into a habit.

My philosophy on food is that it's for nutrition so that I don't die. That's all. The second I start making eating fun, I put on 50 pounds. I see little merit on spending over 20 minutes making food that will take less than 1/2 that time to consume. It's funny, I always figured that as I got older I would become a better and better cook but instead I find myself uninterested in elaborate meal preparation and intricate grocery lists. I'm happy with cereal for breakfast, hot pockets for lunch and spaghetti for dinner every single day of the week. But my days of cooking for one are over. Now I have a kid and a husband to cater to so I can't always get off that easy.

The class last night was pretty interesting. There was a group of 30 people being instructed and it appeared that most of us couldn't tell the difference between a teaspoon and tablespoon to save our soup. We tentatively cut, poured and garnished with looks of utter dread on our faces that somehow we would mess up the entire meal by one misplaced parsley. My generation does not do well in the kitchen (I know, I know, there are exceptions out there, especially among my readers). There is a whole encyclopedia of cooking terminology that's pure Greek to us. The few terms we are comfortable with are "nuke" and "take-out." It's strange because growing up my family rarely ate out and I spent many hours in the kitchen with my mom either observing or assisting her with the daily meals. But it didn't stick. The one dish from my youth that I would make is beef stroganoff but Spike doesn't like it so that leaves me with zero heritage dishes.

Sometimes I feel like I am letting some great legacy die by not perpetuating the traditional dishes of my ancestors. My father's family was from Croatia and brought to America all kinds of sauerkraut, cornmeal and bready delights. My grandmother makes these dishes religiously and considers it a vital element of preserving an intact genealogy. I made a saurkraut dish once but couldn't stand the smell and swore it off. I sometimes buy pre-made polenta from Trader Joe's but am pretty sure my grandma would be able to tell the difference between the plastic-y store bought kind and her warm comforting blend.

But I'm happy to let all this go. I sit idly by and watch as generation upon generation of culinary knowledge and evolution dies pathetically on my doorstep. To me it's not worth the time and money spent on preparing foods just for the sake of appeasing the ancestors. I'm hoping to have other things to pass on to my children like... well, I'm not quite sure, but it definitely won't be my fabulous banana bread recipe (ask Spike about that particular disaster). I am of the Costco generation where anything worth eating has already been pre-washed, pre-cooked and pre-digested for your dining pleasure. My greatest hope for the 21st century is that some lab creates the "meal pill" where you can get all your nutrition from one pill three times daily. Something similar to Willy Wonka's bubblegum that was a four course dinner. But then again, look how that ended for poor Violet Beauregard. So there are a few kinks to work out - I'll wait.


the young, hip, fresh Mrs. Covington said...

I'm glad you had fun at your cooking class. We missed you at enrichment! Your post made me hungry so I'm going to go eat now. :)

Charlie D. said...

I'm the only cook I know at my college. Hell, it's a useful skill. It impresses the girlfriend's friends and parents.

Excellent blog!

Silly Marie said...

When my friends at work (where I was a cook) found out I cooked dinner every night after a full day of cooking they thought I was nuts.

I just couldn't bring myself to do not cook...fast food and easy boxed stuff is a good relief once in a while, but don't you feel sick after the second or third day of it?

Oh, and my husband is right there with you on the whole "one pill for a meal" if he's the one having to worry about it. "Eating/cooking can be a chore," he says. Oi.

Catherine said...

Gross again Sarah. I don't buy it for a second. Food and nutrition can be so fabulously simple and varied and delicious and fresh and healthy and exciting and relatively inexpensive and low stress, you've just got to do it right. By the way... Costco has got great fruits and veggies and herbs and cheeses and fresh meats, etc. You owe it to Penny not to give up on healthy varied foods or on water...

I don't believe you are serious here.

Sarah said...

Belive it. Penny eats all her good nutritious stuff but for myself, I spare all the theatrics of creating masterpieces. I'm not saying I don't eat fruit, but I certainly don't make English trife. The key is 5 minutes or less. That doesn't mean it has to be a lard fest, but it does have to be simple (pre-cooked chicken with canned tomatoes heated in the microwave, low-fat hot pockets, toast with an apple, simple stuff.)

Once again, it's been a pleasure to gross you out!

Amanda said...

I'm with you Sarah. It has to be easy and light. My latest find is Tyson's fully cooked marinated, grilled chicken breasts that taste great after 2 minutes in the microwave. throw it on some spinach with salad dressing and it's even healthy. The only problem--one of our friends gave it to us when she cleaned her freezer before moving, and I can't figure out where she bought it. Any ideas?

Sarah said...

I get my fully cooked chicken breast strips at Costco in the open fridge section with all the other sandwich meats. It's the perfect size, goes easily into any pastas, salads, sandwich or soup and tastes great.

I only discovered these a few months ago but it really has made cooking so much nicer not to have to worry about chicken juice all over my tiny apartment kitchen.