Sous Chef


Trying to prepare for the baby itself is nigh impossible. There’s just too much you can’t know about the little ball of chaos. You can’t know about personality, illness, temperment, sleep schedule and on and on. You just can’t really ever prepare fully for the big arrival. What you can do, though, are rack up little victories where you can.

There are some things you can say very concretely you are ready for. You either have a crib or you do not. You either know how to install the car seat or you do not. You either know how to prepare a meal, or you do not.

I did not, but I wasn’t thrilled about it.

I’ve been pretty lucky to live my life to date with good cooks. My Mom, my Dad (who was not the primary cook in the house, but as I got older was called in to reveal some of his signature items) and Janelle. Growing up, I didn’t do any cooking, because, well, how many kids do the cooking in their household? In college I ate as most college kids do. I prepared typical college meals that consisted of dumping a couple of packets of something into a pot and then mixing and heating them up. After Janelle and I moved in together I didn’t cook because I wasn’t really allowed to.

Janelle really enjoys cooking and baking. Janelle also really enjoys having things done her way, dammit. So, every night, almost without fail, I would ask “Do you want me to help you make anything?” and I would get a “Nope” in response. It’s basically impossible to complain about this arrangement, but it’s my way of justifying that I am 28 years old and don’t really know how to prepare anything but the most basic dishes for myself.

I can follow directions, so recipes are certainly something I could tackle. However, I’m a bit of a nervous learner. When dealing with something where I cannot very easily wave a wand and undo my work, I’m very hesitant to proceed. So, despite the fact that if I ruined some food I could just go out and buy more ingredients and try again, I’d be very reluctant to start out uncoached just because I’d mess it all up the first go. True or not, the feeling would be impossible to escape. Plus, what I want is the ability to throw down spontaneously. I would like to pick up Janelle’s ability to walk into a kitchen, look at what she has in front of her and just freestyle it into something tasty.

I first got the idea into my head that I wanted to cook more after watching a video from Robert Rodriguez (warning: harsh language) where he talks about how every man should know how to cook, and then proceeds to give a lesson on cooking one of his favorite dishes. The thing I found most appealing was his concept of having his own personal menu. I’m a fan of it in an intangible way, but it’s pretty awesome that he also has a little laminated menu guests can look it. I would like to have myself a signature set of dishes.

Being able to cook is a huge boon. It will keep you healthy when there’s no one else around you who will cook. It makes for great romantic evening fodder. And it sure as hell is going to help when, for months after the birth of our baby, Janelle ends up needing to be up all night long, every couple hours, to feed the baby. It’s nice to think about prepping and freezing meals in advance to make it easier to cook when the baby is here, but our freezer is big enough to hold maybe three days of food. Maybe.

So, I’m on a journey to learn how to be a better cook. I need to, in a couple month’s time, be ready to be able to cook a full, balanced meal and to do so in a manner that doesn’t involve my nagging Janelle for help every couple steps and doesn’t leave her sitting on the couch mulling over how I’m probably in there messing everything up.

I have no idea what I can expect from the baby. What I do know, though, is that I can make a pretty tasty side of asparagus spears, rice and boil some eggs. They may be small victories, but they are victories nonetheless. Maybe this weekend I’ll make some chicken.

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  1. #1 by Jason on March 31, 2010 - 10:22 AM

    A simple lesson for cooking: if whatever you’re making starts to go south, it can be remedied by adding more cheese. 60% of the time, it works every time.

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