It has been many years since food was all that important to me. I used to eat more than I do. I can’t eat so much — of anything — these days.
I was a really good cook, back when cooking mattered more than it does now. These days, my goal is to turn out tasty meals that take under half an hour to prepare — half that to clean up. Other than Japanese food, we no long bother to go out to eat. The restaurants in this area are … I’m searching for a polite way to say this … uninspired. Bland. If I want something with a lot of flavor, I make it myself.
I learned to cook Chinese cuisine a long time ago. Way back when I was first married and we went out to eat Chinese several times a week, which on an adjunct professor’s salary (I was still in college), was burdensome.
I figured if millions of Chinese women could do it, I could too. I bought a cookbook. A wok and a cleaver. I found ingredients. It was 1966. There were no oriental grocery stores locally. Nor did I have a home computer or an Internet through which I could buy anything. I winged it.
Last night I made a beef stir fry for dinner. These days, I have a rice cooker. It makes preparing rice a no-brainer. I had frozen Chinese veggies, hoisin sauce and four kinds of soy at hand. Fresh ginger, chopped garlic. Broth. I diced the steak earlier in the day.
Cooking was done in a flash. The labor-intensive part is in the slicing and dicing. Cooking is accomplished quickly, at high heat and of course, the rice in the cooker takes care of itself.
I remembered how I labored over those first Chinese meals. The cookbook open on the counter. Timing the rice. Measuring carefully each ingredient. Now I eyeball everything, throw it in the big iron skillet and I know by the way it smells I’ve got it right.
I guess that’s the payoff for forty plus years of cooking daily or nearly so. There ought to be some benefit, right?