Today’s cup of decaf is with Antoni Porowski in the kitchen…
I’ve been bingeing on a lot of Queer Eye lately. For obvious reasons, the Fab Five really are Fabulous! I notice I am particularly inspired by the cooking portions of the shows. Not just because Antoni is so wonderful, but because I can resonate with having “issues” in the kitchen. My diet is very healthy, but I am in a rut. A cooking rut that I have been in for about, well … decades! And now that the kids are gone, it is even worse! Literally, there is often nothing in the fridge. Empty shelves. Actual empty shelves. So, I thought I should “Queer Eye” myself and figure out why. Here goes.
In The Finest Restaurant
I grew up in a home with the most amazing, ever, culinary expert, as a mother. I’m not just saying that. She was legendary in the kitchen. Everyone who dined at her table would tell you the same. I guarantee it. She ate like a bird, but cooked like she was feeding royalty. The 60’s dinners included things like lasagna or American Chop Suey, or pork chops, green beans, and mashed potatoes, or flank steak, peas, and mashed potatoes, or Swedish meatballs, wax beans, and mashed potatoes. Sounds basic, but nothing ever was. She had the touch that made an average meal turn into a Gourmet Magazine cover. Fettuccini alfredo, or veal parmesan; you name it, she made it. My father’s nightly saying was, “In the finest restaurant…” He actually never said the second half of the sentence, because we knew what he meant.
Food Is The Best
I asked my sisters what they remember most about my mother’s cooking when we were growing up. One remembers the fried chicken, and I can bet it was served with mashed potatoes! My other sister remembers Campbell’s Tomato Soup and grilled cheese when we came home for lunch from school. (Yes, we walked home the mile for lunch and went back to school an hour later, even in the snow!) We had chicken cordon bleu one day, and macaroni and cheese the next. Lots of whole milk and butter, butter, butter. She bought a half of a cow to have meat in the freezer for months. Homemade breads, biscuits, and gravy. The deserts were amazing. Award winning apple pie, lemon meringue pie, cinnamon buns, chocolate cake, cookies, and on and on. These same siblings continue to cook and bake, on the daily. One just said to me, “Food is the best, isn’t it?” My silent response was, “Well, I guess?” They love to cook, my brother loves to cook, and they all seem to get really excited about it.
Songs In The Kitchen
I was raised in the kitchen. As the youngest, I remember often being alone in the kitchen with my mother. That is when I learned all of our favorite songs. “Accentuate The Positive,” and “Pass Me By.” We sang while she cooked, and I watched. So, I really did learn from the best. I observed her reading recipe books, cutting out recipes from magazines, making shopping lists. I even went to Whitman’s grocery store with her for the weekly shopping. I know that the key to a great meal is preparation. Plan a menu, shop for the items, have the staples in the house always, and then listen to music while you cook. Put on your lipstick and have dinner on the table at 6PM when your man comes home. Sit the family down and talk about the day.
So, what happened to me?
A few things.
Number one, I stopped eating red meat in my early 20’s.
Number two, I lost my sense of smell in my early 20’s. Yes, really. It’s called Anosmia. Can’t smell a thing. Not a thing. This obviously affects my taste and thus, interest in food.
Number three, I had two kids, worked full time, went back to school, kept working full time, and have a husband who is rarely home at the typical dinner time hour. (I have to add here, that on the occasions when my husband is home, he always offers to make his famous turkey chili or tacos!)
Number four, I stopped eating dairy in my 40’s and gluten in my 50’s.
Number five, I hate food shopping.
Number six, I don’t think about dinner early in the day, and definitely not early in the week.
Therefore, no planning makes for last minute, what do we have that I can whip together, kind of meals.
I walk down the street to our local grocery store, buy some chicken and vegetables, put them on the grill, make rice, and a salad. Done. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
I have a fair amount of guilt over this behavior because it means my girls did not grow up learning to cook, or with a role model who loves cooking. It has become a family joke that I don’t cook, and I find I do not laugh along. My dream house is one without a kitchen. Ha Ha Ha. There is a cultural expectation that I should love to cook for my family and that I should love to create the time to do it. I don’t always hate cooking. Sometimes I get a burst of inspiration and have even made massive feasts for 30 people at Passover or Thanksgiving. Sometimes I get obsessed with making something really time consuming or unusual. I cook it once and then never again. The crock pot Chicken Provançal or a vegetable frittata. Those are just temporary bleeps that don’t get us through the nightly need to eat a healthy and well-balanced meal.
In walks Antoni. I have many cook books, some were my mother’s, some were wedding gifts, and some are “fast and easy meals for the family” books. I don’t open them, I don’t think about opening them, and they don’t inspire me to open them. But watching a two-minute segment geared toward the person who is not naturally inclined to cook, has boosted my interest. It is about staying within my comfort zone and not venturing out too far, too fast.
The other night I took my daily walk to the store and here is what happened; I grilled some skinless, boneless chicken thighs with seasoning. I cut them up and put them on a lightly fried, soft corn tortilla, spread some avocado on top, added a layer of Stonewall Kitchen black bean salsa, chopped Persian cucumbers and Roma tomatoes, and topped it with a bit of cilantro. It was fabulous!!! Instead of snacking until 8PM, while I figured out what to make, I made dinner early and ate early. It took no more time than I usually spend making a meal, and when my man came home at 10PM to eat, he was so happy! I did not have any lipstick on, and was already in bed, but as empty nesters, this was an exciting night!
As I sit with my cup of decaf this morning, I’m thinking, what would Antoni suggest I cook for dinner tonight? Thanks Fab Five!
Readers, feel free to send me your best “regular night” dinner ideas! Please!