Here comes the fabulous food season. Thanksgiving kicks it off. And then there are Hannukah latkes, party canapes, Christmas cookies and don’t forget the hot cocoa. This time of year, I can no longer deny that I’m a cookzophrenic.
That means part of me relishes the creative, delicious world of food preparation and consumption. The other part of me runs shrieking at the mention of a potluck supper or cookie exchange.
I have never been adept in the kitchen. I can scrape by, but I lack motivation. That simple Chinese wok recipe loses its magic after I have chopped my 14th vegetable. I am best friends with my microwave.
I made one classic Christmas dinner with goose, ham, Yorkshire pudding, gravy and the works. It was pretty good, but during the three full days it took me to clean up, I vowed never again.
Yet my love-hate syndrome can be activated by a host of stimuli. It always hits me when I wander into a gourmet kitchen store. Knowing full well I will never use a garlic press, a deluxe spatula, a strawberry huller or a combination deep fryer and FM radio, I nevertheless want them.
It can strike when I’m simply watching TV and happen to flip past “Good Eats” or maybe a cake bake-off. You would think I had actually iced a layer cake or successfully handled one of those decorator icing bags.
But no. I just find myself wanting to after a couple of TV cooks make it look so simple. I have to fight the urge to race into the kitchen and begin preparing peanut brittle from scratch. I need to remind myself of the multiple batches of fudge I measured, mixed and threw out one year.
The odds are further stacked against me as my oven has a real burn-the-top, undercook-the-bottom problem. Nonetheless, I’ve been known to fantasize about busting out a perfect standing rib roast.
I am equally vulnerable anytime I pass a Martha Stewart or Bon Appetit magazine on the rack. When they show those glossy photos of a beautifully set table groaning with at least five courses, I begin to lose touch with reality.
Suddenly it doesn’t matter that each recipe has three parts with 10 ingredients and instructions that cover two pages. Fully cognizant that I probably can’t afford the exotic ingredients, much less find them, I still want to flip on the oven, gather it all up and cook up a storm.
When I snap into consciousness and face the fact that just one of those five dishes needs more than an hour of my attention, I get over myself.
All that effort so it can be eaten? I think not. Were I to invest that kind of time and creativity into something, I want it bronzed and put on the mantel. Uh oh. That paella recipe on Pinterest sounds so easy. Make me a reservation, quick.
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer and culinary lazybones. Contact her at [email protected].