The Foundation of Cooking

If prep work is the foundation of cooking, why is that so many who cook seem to hate prep work? When I used to watch Hell’s Kitchen, the punishment for not winning challenges was prepping all the food for the upcoming cook-off, and it really throws me off. Personally, I don’t know any other time in the kitchen when I am so intimately close with my ingredients as during my prep work, so how can anyone who loves food hate this special moment of preparing it?

Whenever I’m in the kitchen, the time when I feel most active in manipulating my ingredients is when I’m cleaning, chopping, dicing and slicing whatever’s on the menu that night. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a whole foods nut, but there’s nothing better to me than handling fresh herbs and veggies, raw seafood and the simplest forms of food. I like knowing where my food comes from, and handling it is a reminder of what I’m putting in my body.

Of course this is not to dismiss the act of cooking. I love cooking. I love the sizzle in the pan, the fragrant aroma of flavors being released and that wonderful moment when my sauce suddenly thickens and I’m not just stirring runny broth in a pot. But isn’t it just as important to acknowledge and appreciate all of the work that goes into preparing the raw materials before they become something more than just ingredients?

I can’t be the only one who loves chopping and mincing and dicing.

Can I?

The Simple Joys of Eating

Sometimes I get so caught up in cooking and concocting new recipes food to try, I sometimes forget what really matters: the joy you get from biting into that food and really savoring the taste. I think that’s true of any food, no matter how simple or complex it is, whether you labored for hours or tossed it in the microwave. There is something so enjoyable about sinking your teeth into something that you had a part in creating. Even if it was only for 4 to 5 minutes on HIGH.

I remembered, too, how much I love simple comfort foods. Instead of laboring for hours to make homemade delicacies, I made some Kraft mac & cheese with Morningstar “chicken” tenders for lunch. I haven’t had real chicken tenders in almost 8 years, and it was always one of my favorite foods. Especially the ones from Arby’s. Maybe I’m a little rusty on what chicken tastes like, but it must be as delicious as these. And what can I say about mac and cheese? We didn’t cook in my household, so many nights, Kraft mac and cheese was our main course with a side of bread. (Oh, the culinary delights of growing up with a single dad.)

So after minimal preparation (boiling some water, cooking some noodles, heating the oven, etc.) we took our plates back to the bedroom and ate in bed while watching some crazy movie (I think it was called Brazil.) I scooped up the cheesy goodness, and dunked my “chicken” into a glob of bbq sauce, and I couldn’t think of any better meal I could have made (of picked up) for lunch today.

My OMG moment while deveining shrimp

I have been cooking for about six years, and as a seafood-only type of gal, I have prepared my fair share of shrimp. I can’t stomach the prices for pre-shelled, deveined shrimp at grocery stores (it’s always several dollars more per pound than if you do it yourself,) so I’m quite familiar with prepping my own shrimp. But for some reason tonight, I had the most amazing revelation about how easy it is to devein shrimp.

At least, I think it’s amazing. If you’ve already figured this out, don’t rain on my parade!

My shrimp were being pesky this evening, and the veins were particularly . . . excrement-filled? Right. And that meant that when I tried to rip out the vein, it was just kind of blobbing poop excrement all over my shrimp. Now this is frustrating when one shrimp does it, let alone twenty. Even the ones that I had deveined were still not entirely clean, and that’s why it hit me.

Wash the shrimp.

Like, really wash them so that the pressure of the water just swooshed any extra excrement right down the drain. It sounds too easy, but it worked. A simple slice down the center of the shrimp and a good rinsing under the sink washed away all the dirty little veins. Washed them right down the sink. And best of all, my hands weren’t covered in shrimp poop afterwards.