Thursday, September 17, 2009

Emeril, Move Aside

Sophie: "Mommy, you're a good cooker!"

Once upon a time my mother tried to get me to stand by her side and watch her prepare the traditional, family Armenian recipes that she's so good at making. Since I was a high schooler and knew much more than she did, I refused. For many years it didn't matter that I knew how to boil water and push the buttons on the microwave, but then one day I discovered the absolute joy that is the art of cooking.

Now, if I could go back in time, not only would I stand with my mother, pen and pad in hand, but instead of wasting time in college on a subject that I didn't follow anyhow, I'd have gone to the Culinary School of the Arts and become a chef. I'm not talking about Paula Deen cooking here, though I do agree that everything tastes better with full fat milk, cream and butter. I know how to open a can and push microwave buttons already. I love the cooking that I see on Iron Chef America and watch the show simply to see the choreography that is professional cuisine.

Being in the kitchen is a catharsis for me. Pondering a new, difficult recipe, shopping for the ingredients, doing the prep work and then watching it all come together relaxes me and re-energizes me.

Unfortunately, I need to amend the first sentence in the paragraph above. Being in the kitchen USED to be a catharsis for me. That was the period of time we have labeled, "Before Sophie." Post Sophie cooking consists of a stool by my cooking area, the constant fear of tender young skin getting burned, and the stress of having to answer why I do every single thing I do and use every single ingredient I use, not to mention what everything is as well.

Even though these kitchen times aren't as relaxing as they used to be, they've become something else. Through the opportunity to share my love for cooking with Sophie, she's stayed open to trying new foods once she knows that she's helped cook them. My hope is that as the years pass she will absorb a love for the art of cooking and not see it as simply a tedium, or necessity. I hope that she will continue to stand by me, even after she doesn't need a stool and never adopts the high school attitude that I had and with which probably hurt my mother.

I still make the advanced dishes I made Before Sophie, but I have a new audience and there is nothing that will make all the preparation, heat and steam more worthwhile than sitting down at the table and hearing the words, "Mommy, you're a good cooker" come out of my little girl's mouth.

Emeril, you may have a show, but my Sophie thinks I'm a good cooker and that make me think I've come out ahead.

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