My husband is the sweetest guy you’ll ever meet. And nobody but NOBODY tries as hard as he does to get things right.
But damn it all if he isn’t one of the most insecure cooks on the planet. In the kitchen, it’s as if he’s been stripped of all his powers, and is feeling his way in the dark.
I suspect, save a special few of you men who have made a serious study of cooking, this is a common occurrence.
When he has a recipe in front of him, he follows it to the freaking letter, and has produced some delicious dishes. This I cannot deny. But his process is tortured, labored, much like how most of us feel trying to assemble Ikea furniture: you have a sense that you’re headed in the right direction, but there’s that one piece in the box that doesn’t show up in the directions, and what if that’s the one thing that holds it all together?
Adding to Tim’s terror of getting something “wrong” is the fact that he lacked an adequate teacher in his formative years. (I won’t say too much, just that his mother regularly commits the mortal sin of trimming all of the fat off of bacon on the rare occasion she serves it.) Like many people, Tim thinks that his cooking will be healthier if he doesn’t add salt.
He’s right, it’s much healthier to omit the salt.
Yes, too much salt is a problem. I’m not advocating over salting. But if I’ve learned one thing watching 12 seasons of Top Chef, it’s this: salt is the thing that holds things together. In fact, when I’m cooking, I recall Tom Colicchio’s clipped “under seasoned” complaint and make sure to taste everything as I go along. Alton Brown taught me a thing or two about seasoning food as well. Hell, 80% of what I know about cooking came from Good Eats. My mother preferred to spend her time painting.
In my view, baking is chemistry, but cooking is art. There’s nuance and joy and care and thought that goes into every meal. Panache and style, if you’re lucky.
I’ve been cooking for a family so long I forget what it was like when I started. Not all of my meals were winners. And I’m sure Tim will gain confidence as he does this more often, which he will as my schedule changes. He’ll explore new recipes and techniques and make a study of it, as he does with everything else he masters.
But somehow, in the meantime, I need to get him to remember that one rule: don’t forget the salt and pepper.
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