Some people want to be pampered on their birthdays, to have all their favorite things lined up in a row so that they don’t have to go anywhere or want for anything. Some people want big gifts. Some people want a quiet dinner out. Some people wish to forget the day all together. I, however, only want one thing, always: adventure, and more power to you if it’s a surprise. This does not mean I expect an Indiana Jones escapade every year (although on second thought, yes it does), but it does mean that creativity has to be involved. If we’re going to be pampered, make me climb a rocky cliff to get there. Give me a big gift, but hide it in a garden maze. We can do a quiet dinner, but let’s go somewhere that we have never even heard of before. I have a lot of stuff; what I want are memories that I can share with someone.
No gives a better gift than my mom because she understands this. Earlier this month, she got me one of those neato new-fad box services called Taste the World. It’s a service like Loot Crate or Trunk Club where every month I get a new box with varied items related to a theme, in this case, international cuisine.
This week’s ICANCOOK is based off of a recipe I learned from the first box which was from Sweden. A Swedish smorgasbord can have some unique flavors in it (you ain’t had black licorice until you have had Swedish black licorice, and I fucking hate black licorice and this shit was delicious), but everything was still delightful because how can you go wrong with things that are filled with bacon and onions? AND I HAVE FIVE MORE BOXES COMING, all from different countries and all being shared here and on CookEatLive.
Preparation is cooking. Cooking is preparation. It took me a long time to recognize that you do an incredible disservice to your food and eaters when you do not consider preparation as a part (and sometimes the biggest part) of cooking because it leaves too many things to chance. Sure, it seems like a good use of your time to mince some green peppers while you wait for your omelet to set, and sure, maybe you just need to get quicker at cutting peppers so you don’t have to buy another fridge because the last one melted into a puddle once your omelet burned and caught on fire. As a good rule of thumb, once you start your fire, the majority of your attention should be on the fire and not continuing your prep. Worry less about being able to cut the peppers just in time to use them and worry more about creating an environment where everything you need is already right at hand.
But there is a bigger reason how thinking the prep isn’t cooking keeps your abilities down: it disrespects the food, the ingredients. I never realized it at the time, but I used to consider ingredients reliant on the final meal to be worthwhile; that until the food was cooked it was sub-food, less than. When I stopped thinking of a meal as an amalgamation of lesser ingredients, and began to consider it as an equal collaboration between important ingredients that bring important flavors, textures, aromas, and colors to a dish, my eaters started becoming more elated when sitting at my table. By putting all of your focus into your prep, you show the utmost respect for your food by making sure no part of your cooking process is taken for granted.
We decided to go with a different kind of song this time around, but it still works. And let me tell you something about sushi rice: it is, by far, more tasty than any other rice I have ever made. The shorter grains, the rice wine vinegar, how each tiny pearl sticks to one another to make larger masses, how it’s best when eaten at room temperature; it’s just a lot of goddamn fun. Plus, you have to use an actual hand fan! Mine was made by a Korean bank; HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THE AUTHENTICITY?!
I bought this tuna already ground up but I am going to retry the recipe at some point when I will chop up the tuna myself for a larger cut. These were still incredibly delicious (far better than the meal I served them with), and if you have any leftover tuna you can always try making a sushi roll!
Damn, this show takes a lot of work. It takes so much work, I need to create more work specifically to handle that work, and that work’s work begets its own work’s work, and I no longer know what reality is. I don’t even drink that much anymore; everything’s bananas!
No, wait! By the gods, here is a bunch of sangria I made and which I mostly drank myself. This is the start of the ICANCOOK videos for CookEatLive – a series that focuses less on the deeper meaning of why we cook in a certain way and more about the incredible things you can do with food. No instructions, just the pure thrill of seeing good food come together.
And I want to see what other people cook, too, so I slapped it up on Instagram and stuck a hashtag on it: #icancookanything. So tell me –
If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, I would tell him to put down that party-sized bottle of cheap Moscato wine, to suck it up and buy a new pair of shoes (I usually end up taping them to my feet), and to clean my goddamn kitchen more often. A clean kitchen is not just about sanitation, but also speaks to the foundations of cooking good food for other people.
No, I’m not going to tell you what it is; that’s why I made the video. So watch that. And remember: