When you’re a food writer, it’s sort of embarrassing to get caught loading a frozen dinner into the microwave. Such was the case when an angry mob of colleagues descended on me in the company cafeteria while I was reading the directions on the back of a Lean Cuisine box. “I thought you were a cook,” one of them said, as the crowd eyed me suspiciously.
The truth of the matter is that even food writers take a break from time to time.
For me, it’s not about the clean-up. I love the clean-up. There is a Zen-like quality to rolling up your sleeves and quietly setting the kitchen to rights. Warm, soapy water and a dishcloth, gently rubbing the long expanse of the centre island, scrubbing the pots and pans until they gleam, a gentle and starry night through the kitchen window, and a long cool drink of water after a job well done. No, it’s not the clean-up that occasionally causes me to bind my oven door with yellow “do not cross” tape.
It’s not about the actual cooking either. I love trying out new ideas in the kitchen, adding extra touches to a dish like a drizzle of truffle oil or silky swirls of crème fraîche. I like using fresh ingredients and innovative techniques. There’s something infinitely rewarding in chopping, mixing, stirring, mincing, rolling and coaxing ingredients into something beautiful and scrumptious. No, it’s not the actual cooking that keeps me from the kitchen.
It’s life. Just plain old life. Working late, family parties, kids, grandkids, pets, gardens, classes to take, books to read, movies to see, friends to call, treadmills to tread on, places to visit, work to get done. I love to cook but I wouldn’t give up a moment of my life to perfect a soufflé, unless of course, I was testing a soufflé for this article. Life is about living — and living well. Cooking will always have its place, but never centre stage.