Cooking, like stand-up, can be an incredibly humbling experience. You can do all the preparation in the world, follow the instructions to the letter, pay close attention to the process and still be left with a shit-sandwich.
But we keep coming back to the stove/microphone even after we’ve crashed and burned so the rewards must be pretty awesome if we’re happy to risk such dismal, and often public, failure.
I only came to cooking late, partly because I didn’t know how great it could be, but mostly because I was a firm believer that the toasted sandwich was the pinnacle of human culinary achievement. In hindsight, there is still something great about the toastie, but it’s very much the LEGO of food – just assemble the pieces correctly and it will be roughly what it’s meant to.
Proper cooking though, is like alchemy. You have your base ingredients and hopefully, through a series of arcane rituals and the proper application of fire, you can transmute your articles into something greater than the sum of its parts.
I’ve never really achieved this, but I’ve come close enough to believe that I should keep trying, despite the embarrassing failures.
Last night I made risotto for the first time, and I knew that it was going to be a little tricky. In the past, I’ve cleaned up after other people have made risotto, so I know that there’s nothing fun about trying to remove two inches of burnt rice off the bottom of a saucepan with a chisel.
I love “fire and forget” cooking, like roasts and casseroles – anything that you’re allowed to walk away from for a while with a glass full of wine and a head full of dreams about how good the finished product will be. Risotto, unfortunately, is like a child with ADHD wearing a suit made of dynamite. It requires constant care and attention to make sure that it doesn’t go crazy and ruin your kitchen.
I thought that I had it all under control, but as soon as I started adding the wine to the risotto in a manner known as “one for Kent, one for the risotto”, it was all over.
I write this to you from one day after the disaster, sitting at my kitchen table ,typing on my laptop while forking re-heated risotto from last night into my cake-hole. It’s not a wholly unpleasant experience, the asparagus and the spring onions have come through nicely but consistency really ruins the experience.
Upon tasting the risotto fresh out of the pan last night, my fiancee summed it up best when she remarked, “this is like eating semi-tasty, rice-based cement”. And she was right.