To serve friends

May 8, 2009

I love cooking.

My being French does not have anything to do with the matter (I think), but the fact remains that this is an act of creation I particularly enjoy.
I’m definitely not a “haute cuisine” adept, even if I like to venture into complex cooking to be followed by the book, as well as abandon myself to wild improvisation.

Cooking every day

I cook every day, almost, and there are some times when a particular recipe worms its way through my imagination from the very morning, until it becomes an urge.
From this point, there are several possibilities:

  • I have the required ingredients
    Most of the times I docilely follow the recipe, and even get to a honest result
    But sometimes, even if this is my first attempt with this recipe, and I obviously haven’t mastered it yet, I start to drift and add a new spice, or try out another mixing method. This very rarely produces something excellent, but it never discouraged me from repeating my wanderings.
  • I don’t have the ingredients
    That’s when things get out of hand very quickly: knowing that the recipe is not feasible by a long shot, I open fridge, cupboards, and stare blankly at what’s inside, waiting for inspiration.
    And it’s not unlike writing (as I experience it at least). Once an idea emerges, and lets itself be caught, I can start building on it.
    I can find myself making a semi-flaky pastry, still not knowing what it will enclose, but then opening the spices cabinet, grabbing the cumin, and one thing leading to another, I have “petits fours” oven-bathing.

It would be presumptuous to say that imagination guides all my cooking, I have a relatively high rate of “misses”, and when in a dark patch, I retreat to simple and secure basic carbonara pasta, stir fry, cr√™pes …
The fact is I love cooking. Be it basic or complex, it has always been fun so far.

Cooking for others

If cooking a dish I dreamed of all day is fun, preparing a dinner for friends is another story altogether.

Not that it is not fun, but it requires a little more than imagination, I think: I need a plan.
Or rather, a theme.
Successful past dinners for friends were built around an idea: noisy food, or on the contrary, silent food, food that don’t taste like what they look, or food shaped after a given occasion. A time-shifted Christmas dinner (complete with faux tree and real presents) was a big surprise for our guests, and a “Satka’s restaurant” dinner where guests are given a menu to choose from a few weeks before the dinner was repeated several times.

Offering friends a meal, on top of the sacred (almost mystical) value of the gesture, is a very exciting moment for me, not unlike choosing the perfect gift for the ones you care about.

Again, I’m not saying each and every one of our guests keeps an imperishable memory of the meal, because sometimes, the pizza delivery solution or the gargantuan pasta cauldron¬† is just the perfect choice.

If cooking is fun, creating a meal is an adventure! And even if it’s nothing special, sharing it with friends gives it automatic value.