Dispatches from the Suburbs of Hell

Heaven is for the obedient. Hell is for the wrathful. What of the ones in between? We wind up in the Suburbs. Our sin is individuality. Our punishment is boredom. But at least we're in good company.

Location: New England, United States

Monday, January 04, 2010

To Feed The Soul?

I miss food.

That's probably a weird thing to say, and it probably needs some explanation. You see, once upon a time, I was a pretty good cook. I'm not a gourmet by any stretch, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve. Got my cookbooks, my spice rack, and my array of pots and pans, among them my beloved Wok of Doom (so named because I invariably destroy my kitchen whenever I use it). I make a pretty good honey-garlic chicken, a more than halfway-decent mac and cheese, and my sure-fire hangover cure, the "heart attack omelet," whose recipe I will not share for fear of frightening the children.

And further, not only was I good at it, but I enjoyed it. There was a creative aspect to it, of putting diverse raw ingredients together, and creating something new. Something good, something fun. And the more intricate the recipe, the more dishes you have to dirty, the more ridiculous the ingredients, the better I like it. Of course the flip side of this is that, I'm not so good at the simple things. I can build this great elaborate dinner, but ask me to make a sandwich and you're on your own.

Note how I say, "once upon a time." The fact of the matter is, I haven't had time to cook lately. Haven't had time, energy, or brainpower to spare, to really do ANYTHING. My job - which went away at the end of this year, but that's another blog post - sucked up so much of my time. Ten, twelve-hour days of nonstop stress. By the time I got home I was too fried to do anything other than heat up some leftovers. It was not good for my health or my sanity. Or my personal life, I found; I didn't realize how important to my relationship was the dinner time my girlfriend and I would share until I didn't have it any more. But that's over now. The stress level became too much (oddly enough, I was let go rather than left on my own; when you're putting in overtime every single day and they're STILL not happy with your work, it's no great loss). And so once again I seek employment. Although I feel strangely better about the experience this time around; now that I know what I DON'T want to do, I think I can be more focused in a job search. Besides, every recruiter I've spoken to says I'm quite hireable, and well...if you can't trust your temp employment professional, who can you trust?

Anyway, one good thing about this experience is that I now have some time to manage my own sanity, to get my head back in a good place, and to re-embrace the joy of cooking. I'm going to have to. Because the Food Network isn't doing it for me any more.

Seriously, what has happened to the Food Network of late? It used to be fun to watch, with cooking instruction shows and foodie tourism programs. Now, it seems like every other program is a competition show. The Next Food Network Star (have ANY of the winners other than Guy Fieri ever gone anywhere?). The Next Iron Chef. Chopped. Food Network Challenge. Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather not see competition shows on the Food Network. I mean, where's the joy of cooking here? It's more about competing with one another than the sheer enjoyment of creating - the enjoyment I crave once again in my life. It's almost like Food Network has hopped on the reality show bandwagon, sacrificing creativity for manufactured drama. I'd rather see chefs making something cool than fighting with each other. Even Alton Brown - ALTON FRIGGING BROWN - seems to have sold out. He's hosting Iron Chef America, he's hosting The Next Iron Chef. He's even undergone a wardrobe change in recent years, going from self-consciously geeky to retro-chic (seriously, he seems to be channeling some British spy movie from 1967, with the black turtlenecks and stuff). I mean, what happened to making good food, and encouraging viewers to make it themselves? Why does ever show have to be about competing to win the favor of a bunch of uppity Manhattan food snobs (I swear, Iron Chef America will win me over completely only when Morimoto finally lops off Jeffrey Steingarten's head and uses it as a garnish for his next dish)? I'd much rather see Alton Brown or Marc Summers tell me the exhaustive history of a dish or ingredient, frankly. It's what I need in my life right now.

I guess, though, common wisdom dictates: don't look elsewhere for something you can't get at home. So if the Food Network fails me, it falls to me to create my own joy of cooking. So I will. God knows I have the time...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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3:45 PM, January 30, 2010  
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10:11 PM, February 02, 2010  

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