Don’t Ask ‘What’s Cooking?’

I have written before about being impatient in the kitchen. I want to be one of those breezy hostesses with hundreds of dishes in my repertoire, feasts that I can conjure at an hour’s notice for twelve people. Never mind that most dinner parties I’ve co-hosted have been more party than dinner–I have tremendous expectations for the entertaining I will do in the future.

I have it all planned: You arrive at my small albeit cozy and candle-lit home, greeted by a whoosh of  warm air and a plate full of appetizers. We will tumble into the tiny kitchen that miraculously holds every guest and you’ll settle down at a little table full of fresh bread with spiced oils and fruit and trade animated stories with our friends, laughter tinkling quite merrily, probably. I will float from the pantry to the stove to the fridge, pouring wine with one hand and whisking salad dressing for a bowl of sparkling greens in the other while I pull some impressive beast with roast vegetables from the oven only to turn around and present a lattice-top pie from…where? My bosom? You have no idea, because you’re dazed by my culinary mystique. Dish after fragrant dish materializes in front of us, and once we’ve finally eaten and drunk ourselves into a comfortable haze, we rise from the table to find that someone has already loaded the dishwasher.

Basically, I want my kitchen to look like that scene with the dancing cutlery in Beauty and the Beast. It’s not gonna happen.

Aside from my somewhat flawed expectation that every meal should be a feast (I blame Brian Jacques), I have considerably little experience with kitchen basics. I can chop vegetables, but I don’t really know how. I eat meat, but I don’t prepare it for myself because I don’t trust myself to cook it well. I love the idea of making my own culinary staples, but there are so many that I don’t know where to start. There are plenty of unusual food facts tucked into my brain, but I still have yet to make a decent fried egg. Cooking is neither easy nor pleasant right now; it’s actually sort of infuriating. It’s time to start learning.

This month I’ve endeavored to get better acquainted with the kitchen and the foods I like so that every cooking experience won’t feel like a chore or worse, a disaster. Some of this education has been informal–I made a steak! All by myself! I didn’t think I liked steak!–but for the more serious business I’m turning to the professionals. By the end of October, I’ll know how to wield a knife, bake bread, and brew my own beer. And what more do you need, really?