I began cooking because I generally avoid non-essential manual labor. As one roommate of four, starting in my sophomore year of college, and finding my other three roommates even more chary of cooking than I was of cleaning and washing dishes, I struck a deal. I would cook, as long as the sink could accommodate cooking utensils used in preparation and there was clean tableware available for dining once the meal was finished.
To supplement the considerable experience gained thereby, I came, in the fullness of time, to make the acquaintance and in some instances the friendship of professional restaurateurs and chefs, each of whom proved generous in allowing me to learn technique and kitchen craft, especially as I was content to do so by mere observation from a corner. On occasion, I was honored to be handed a very sharp knife and ordered to cut something into smaller pieces.
In college, I briefly worked in a high-end northern Italian restaurant as a waiter, as well as, even more briefly, during the summer hiatus between my first teaching job and a PhD program in English.
I have cooked for all households in which I have lived since leaving my ancestral bungalow, including solitary stints early in my 20s, and, later in life, between serious live-in relationships, including marriage. It can fairly be said, whatever other minor attractions I have to offer as a suitor, that it was my cooking that won over mates and potential mates. In each of four marriages—three of which ended given the usual vicissitudes of life and mortality—I have done the major share of the cooking. I have even learned to clean up after myself. Usually.
I once, in the early 00s, estimated the number of meals I had prepared in my lifetime, more often than not for two or more people (I avoid cooking for myself, as I feel I’m not worth the effort). It came to something upwards of 20,000. I have since stopped keeping count.
Welcome, at long last, to my first dedicated food and cooking blog. I have had and still have other blogs, which I started to publish online in 2004. Other blogs have, from time to time, incorporated restaurant reviews (especially in France, where we enjoy having a second home we don’t get to live in nearly enough of the year), recipes—some of them even requested by fans, idle thoughts, musings, and even deep meditations on matters culinary, and the odd, likely wholly inconsequential anecdotes about a food-related personal quotidian, some say banal, experience.
In the many years I’ve been cooking, I’ve most enjoyed doing so for guests and loved ones. I’ve cooked on every conceivable kind of cooktop, most of them wretched, appliance engineering being what it is for products most people are willing to pay for. Hence I have an additional skill set, largely intuitional that allows for instant compensation for the specific quirks (usually shortcomings) of the cooking range, the utensils, the mise en place, the cupboard contents, the larder, and so on. I have, of course, also cooked on the finest equipment, with the proper stock of ingredients to hand for whatever dish, simple or complicated, comfort food or exotic. In the end, I’ve learned that there is no shortcoming in the preparation and execution of what’s necessary to produce a meal that will keep it from being a great dining experience.
Several people who know me, and more importantly my cooking and opinions, well have insisted for years that I should be sharing all this knowledge. I finally conceded and this blog is the result.
I will only add that I have also been urged over the years to write a cookbook (which I just might, finally, one day), and even more strenuously urged either to become a professional chef, if not open a restaurant altogether. I know a few things, but for certain, I know enough to know that the latter is not in the cards, as, to open a restaurant, you have to be a little bit crazy and the hours suck, and I’m just a couple of teaspoons short of crazy enough, and my disposition towards labor has already been noted. As for going professional, I came to realize long since that however much I love good food and to eat it and enjoy it, it’s far more important to love feeding people I care about than to make any money at it. At least if one is to stay motivated to keep cooking.