Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Always Learning, Never Perfect

Ever have your fridge stuffed so full of new produce (a rare luxury for a student) that it's impossible to settle on a singular theme for dinner? Tomatoes! Sweet potatoes! Avocado! Kale! Dill! Cilantro! A more appropriate title for this dish would be: "Holy sh*t, so many ingredients to choose from, let's have one of everything...stew." Lesson learned. Keep it simple stupid. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson finger-painting when I was seven years old. When your imagination is bigger than your canvas - or in this case, heart bigger than your stomach - what you end up with is a mediocre variation on the colour brown. This lovely looking stew actually tasted 4/10. So, instead of posting the recipe tonight, I want to raise a point about how it is that I've learned to cook as well as I have at the age of 21. I make a lot of mistakes in the kitchen. When disappointment strikes, I internally log it, intuit what needs to be fixed, re-calibrate, and proceed to adjust those things the next time I make a similar dish. Practice. Mess-up. Practice some more. A few months and years later, you'll f*ck up less. Blunt, but true. And, a good messup once in a while keeps a person humble.

On Cooking with Claire, I typically feature photo-finish dinners, with the right amount of glisten, saturation, and dewiness. Everything looks scrumptious and, if I'm being honest here, a little stretched from the reality of what I actually eat day to day. ...I eat from salad bowls and mason jars most of the time; and walk around my house in sweaty workout clothes with a spoon of almond butter shoved in my mouth. Then, I take a plate of whatever I have properly prepared to outdoor lighting, take high-resolution photos from awkward, physically demanding angles, and proceed to touch them up on the computer. Ask any food blogger and they will tell you a similar story.

This stew had good intentions of being a Middle-Eastern, couscous/cumin/chili/sweet-potato type thing, with a cool-off avocado/dill cream, but there was just too much going on flavour wise. I overshot it. It happens once every few months - I think I can throw a million ingredients into the brew and create a masterpiece - but it just tastes bad. I can tweak it with more salt, lime, or chili, but it's all a cover-up operation. I am, once again, reminded to keep things simple. Some of the best dishes I've ever made are just 4-5 ingredients. Kale/lemon/olive oil/salt salad, or pasta/expensive cheese/pepper, or olives/basil/stuffed tomatoes, etc. Hopefully, you can appreciate this honesty and embrace the learning process in your own kitchen. I urge you not to get angry when you think you may have "wasted" ingredients. Did you overcook, over-season, or mismatch them? Just add it to your mental "flavour-bank." Log it as you would any social experience you wish not to re-create, and proceed to move on from it in the opposite direction. Appreciate the contrast. Just as we make our best friends by experiencing those with whom we don't align, so too do we become better cooks by cooking something rotten once in a while...

In other, less philosophical-foody news, I re-vamped my deck. Now it's a proper, boho, sultan's lounge. And check out that sweet wine + glass holder carved by my American friend. Now, I have the perfect setting to enjoy all my cooking creations and a drink. Wine always washes down the disappointment.

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