Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Set Loose in the Kitchen

I'm taking a break right now from the kitchen. For once I'm doing the cooking while hubby is off working on his tree stand (for those of you not living in BFE/Hicksville/Huntin' an' a Killin' US of A, it is a wooden platform built on and around a tree to sit in and wait for deer to come walking by so they can be shot). The first day of deer season in these parts is the Monday after Thanksgiving, and the schools here extend the holiday that day because a huge percentage of the student body and the faculty will be in the woods that day. So now is the time when all the hunters start preparing for the big day; checking their guns, making sure their fluorescent orange gear still fits, maintaining the deer stands.

In our house my hubby Hank (like my daughter, I'm giving him a Blog Name to give him a little anonymity) is the primary cook. Whenever this comes up in conversation I explain to people, "I figured out that when he does the cooking I do the dishes; but when I do the cooking, I still do the dishes! So I figured I'd save myself half the labor." This is true, but not all of the story. Hank loves to cook; he is so good at improvising with ingredients and food combinations. Most meals are real culinary treats. And since we got married he's been really supportive about cooking healthier meals. At first I still caught him adding a good bit of oil and butter to some dishes, but he's been improving on that, too.

I'm not so good at just whipping a meal together at the spur of the moment. I'm a planner and a researcher. I love browsing through cookbooks and perusing the internet for intriguing recipes. Hungry Girl has been a recent treasure trove of healthy recipes, although some of the ingredients are a little hard to find here in the boonies. But we're going to Washington, D.C. next weekend and I'm making my shopping list for our visit to Trader Joe's, one of my favorite stores for unique food items.

So tonight I am concocting an Asian meal (my usual go-to style when I grab the cooking reins). I found a recipe for Vietnamese Pork Chops, and for the side dishes I'm whipping up a stir-fried cabbage dish and some teriyaki rice. Most Vietnamese dishes call for nuoc mam, otherwise known as Fish Sauce, which I have on hand since have several Vietnamese dishes in my repertoire. The stuff smells terrible (the main ingredient is anchovy extract), but through the magic of the cooking process it makes food taste great. Fish sauce is Vietnam's version of soy sauce and the predominant condiment there (I know all this because I adopted my daughter from Vietnam and learned a few things about the place).

I've discovered that I'm very self-conscious about my cooking skills when my husband's hovering around. I guess it's because he's so darn good at it that I feel inadequate in comparison. Today, however, with him off in the woods building his hunting treehouse, I felt very free and comfortable in the kitchen. But this is true about me in many other circumstances; I don't like people looking over my shoulder and I'm always dreading the critique that's always on the tip of their tongues. Nothing makes me cringe more than when I hear, "Why are you doing it that way? This is the way I would do it..."

So this afternoon it was quite pleasurable to be left to my own devices. I cut the vegetables the way I wanted to, adjusted ingredients the way I wanted them, and there was no second guessing about it. I admit it, I'm a control freak and I don't like people telling me what to do!

Now I'm just hoping Hank likes the meal. I've never made these porkchops for him before, so I'm pretty sure I'll get his standard response: "They're pretty good, but not what I'm used to." The other response is, "They're okay, but I prefer them [insert his or his mother's cooking method here]." Once in a while I get a true four star rating from him -- my pepper steak is his favorite recipe of mine -- and that gives me a good bit of satisfaction.

Time to go finish the rest of the meal. I'll let you know what the food critic says tomorrow!

1 comment:

Vickie said...

This doesn't shock me any more - because I am used to it - but the amish here - they raise deer that are bought and released into the wild for hunting - to help diversify the genes or something. I have never really got that part because to watch the media you would think they were over populated. So, these deer are raised in pens on farms, bought by forest services, transported, released, and then live in the wild (hunted) - so they REALLY aren't wild - they aren't totally tame by a long shot - you couldn't get one to come over to you if it was loose - but they have been fed by humans and been in pretty close proximity to humans for most of their lives. Yes, this is true - the amish farms start within less than a mile of my house and I have seen them - pen after pen of deer - all different kinds on LOTS of farms.