Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cooking, As Therapy

In the past few years I've found that there are only a couple of things that really enable me to relax and detach from the general stressors of life and work and whatnot. One, obviously, is Tang Soo Do (thus, this blog). I'd say the continual improvements in my life and how I live it that Tang Soo Do has brought to me are fairly well documented thus far, and I strongly anticipate these blessings will continue to work wonders inmy life over time.

But one thing I realize about my training is that while I find great peace and fulfillment in my training, much of the immediate pleasure is very inward-directed. Not selfish, exactly, but my training is something I undertook almost completely as a way to challenge myself and entertain myself and force myself to grow. Hopefully all of these things result in positive effects on those around me, but the benefits for others are, at best, indirect.

Which is why I cook.

Back when Christine and I first got married I used to do al most all of the cooking. Unfortunately, as work became a more dominant factor in my life, and especially once we had kids, my time to cook during the week rapidly dwindled to almost nil, and Christine took the reins. Christine is a fairly timid cook -- not to say her cooking isn't quite tasty: quite the opposite. She makes good solid fare for me and the kids 4-5 nights a week. But she's not adventurous in the kitchen and doesn't like to challenge herself or stray too far from very specific recipes.

Conversely, I love just jumping in and trying new recipes, new flavors, new ideas, and so forth. I love spice, I love strong flavors, I love preparation and presentation, you name it. And I'm equally happy working a saute pan and just throwing things together to see what happens as I am wokring the more precise exercises of baking (I've always condered sauteing and frying improv, whereas baking is more like chemistry). But most of all, I love to make something for people -- especially my family -- and see their faces light up when they eat. Not to say I'm always successful -- sometimes things just plain don't come together (my rice pilaf from a few weeks back was a 100% failure on all fronts, for example) but when it works out, it's a rush.

So over the past year or so I've adopted Sundays as my day of cooking. I pick out the evening's recipes in the morning, over coffee. Then I do the grocery shopping for the week around noon (alone, headphones on, listening to music and just enjoying the all-too-infrequent solitude). And then, starting around 2:00 or so, I begin prep, serving around 6:00-ish. That's my Sunday, and it's sometihing I look forward to all week long.

I just crave the chance to get in the kitchen, find an interesting new recipe to try out, and cook for my family and friends. Honestly, when friends want to go out to dinner, I'd almost always prefer to just bring them to my house and try to cook for everyone. It's cheaper, usually the food is better (if I do say so myself), and it's so much easier to just chat and chill out.

And I really love trying out something new and challenging and seeing if I can get my kids to like it. Trevor is usually pretty easy -- he's got an adventurous palate for an almost-9 year old. We've gone for sushi, he likes spicy foods, eats shrimp and crab and other shellfish, and even enjoyed escargots despite knowing he was eating snails. Miranda, on the other hand is a much harder sell. Hardly a day goes by where she doesn't eat PB&J, because she just doesn't like much else for lunch. She eats a good breakfast, but dinners are always characterized by 45 minutes of "eat 5 more bites and you're done" bargaining.

So, I consider the fact that in the past few months I've gotten her to eat -- and enjoy! -- chicken tikka masala, satay chicken kebobs with spicy peanut sauce, orange chicken, coconut rice, honey-gininger chicken with rice noodles, and naan (I'm on a solidly Eastern-flavors kick, if you couldn't tell...) to be something of a personal triumph. And I don't think the fact that I put so much effort into making these things for the people I love goes unnoticed, either. I hope it helps make up for the time I spend at work, or away at trade shows, or training in the evenings during the week.

So tonight it's coconut shrimp (none for Miranda -- she's allergic to shellfish), naan, and ginger-honey chicken with rice noodles (a repeat, because we have Chrisitne's parents for houseguests and we want to share it with them). Time to get started.

Mood: Nicely chilled out
Now Playing: Neko Case, "Middle Cyclone"


Anonymous said...

Dear Gregg,

Beautiful post. I would love to see more pics of your culinary creations --



Gregg P. said...

I have to remember to take pictures next time. I'm pretty sure I'm making pan seared sushi-grade tuna steaks over Asian greens with a sesame ginger sauce for dinner tonight -- way less work than it sounds like! -- so I'll make sure I drag out the iPhone and snap a few pics.