Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dinner for seven.

This morning was my first trip to the Evanston farmer's market after it opened its doors for the spring, and oh, I've missed it so. It is asparagus and rhubarb season in the midwest, and the vendors were overflowing with them, as well as with fresh potted herbs and green onion as big as leeks. In the end, I picked up a bunch of nice-looking tarragon, three huge bunches of purple asparagus, and some shallots for the night's dinner party.

My friend Eugenio, whom I've known and loved since freshman year, is moving away tomorrow, and this long Memorial Day weekend was perfect timing for my roommate and I to invite him and other friends over for one last dinner.

On the menu:
- lemon-oregano chicken thighs, seared in butter then roasted
- carrots and shallots, cooked with butter and tarragon
- roasted asparagus
- forbidden rice with slivered almonds

For dessert:
- homemade fruit tarte, a la the roommate

I chopped and marinated everything in advance. Half an hour before guests arrived, I turned on the rice-cooker and browned the chicken in batches. The chicken then went into the oven with the asparagus, and I cooked the carrots on the stove top. My timing was spot-on: everything finished at the same time, fifteen minutes after people arrived.

All the food was eaten, and people got seconds - always a good sign. As much as I cook and think about food and really enjoy what I make for myself, I'm frequently self-conscious when it comes to others eating what I make for them. Sometimes I worry that the only reason I love my own cooking is simply because, even at this stage in my culinary self-education, I view everything that I make as a remarkable chemistry experiment, and I am still in awe that my hands can create such things at all. That said, it is difficult to view my cooking in an objective light, and I often wonder what people really think about it.

During cycling spring break, I spent a couple hours every night making food for the sixteen members of my team, and I enjoyed every minute of the challenge because I love many of them like family. However, during the week, I had the impression that the food I had planned out was not quite adequate for the purposes of a training camp. Here I was making eggplant parmesan and margherita pizzas when these voracious athletes should be getting meat and carbs and, well, loads more food in general. Towards the end of the week, I learned that someone had indeed complained to another that I was making everything too complicated, that I was trying to show off, that I should have been making functional food instead of fancy food.

I could only assume that others thought at least a little bit the same way, and it made me feel terrible. I couldn't stop thinking about the comment for days, and I still consider that week an embarrassingly unsuccessful episode in my short history as a wannabe chef.

The point is, cooking for others is to me one of the most basic ways of showing love. It is important to me that the food I make conveys this message, but I'm not yet at a point where I can be fully confident that this happens each time.


cecil said...

i feel the same way about cooking food for people.

whenever i cook for just myself i always tell myself while im eating it that its the greatest thing in the world.

whenever i cook for a girl though, i botch it. i make it bland and shittily.

Tim said...

Sounds like they're complaining that your food was too good...? Hell, I just blow those comments off and have fun with it; I love cooking too much.

Jacob said...