I really do love to cook. It has long been one of my favorite activities. From designing a set of complementary recipes to selecting ingredients from the grocery store shelves…from breaking down the parts with cutlery to assembling new wholes with heat…from sipping wine while cooking to sitting down for the first bite. Cooking welcomes contemporary innovation while leaning on ancient wisdom. It does more than forgive accidents. Sometimes it embraces them as the next delicious idea. It calms anxiety. It exhilarates the senses. It dares the imagination and sometimes it tests the belly. Cooking is everyday magic.
For a while now I have thought that the greatest thing someone could invent would be an olfactory camera. Imagine being able to capture aromas as easily as we capture images and send them off to a loved one. I have been at pains to explain to my mother over the phone the splendid and complex smells escaping from a pan full of curry-spiced apples and lamb shanks, which have been simmering long enough to have the meat loosening from the bone. Or, simply, the invisible waves of ambrosia yeast and flour as they recombine in a 475-degree oven. How wonderful it would be to vacuum up a capsule-full of those scents and ship them off to tempt other noses.
Despite this passion, each afternoon – I’d say right around 3:00pm – I find myself longing for happy hour food. Yesterday it was artichoke dip and pita chips from Gold Dust Meridian. Today it’s a ridiculously oversized pile of nachos from Matador. Tomorrow it might be a build-your-own-burger from Club 21. (I shall not link to the respective sites, so as to preserve one more hurdle between you and your own downfall into happy hour gluttony.) These lures are salty, fatty, and all too easy at the end of an exhausting day. And most of them are accompanied by your choice of discounted alcohol, which makes most people expert at rationalizing poor choices.
So tonight, in the presence of Beulahland’s full bar, as plate of sliders flies casually by destined for a nearby table, and an assortment of pies stares out at me from a refrigerated case…tonight I shall resist. I’m going to spin up a batch of pesto, add it to some penne pasta, and toss in a few sautéed scallops. Some crudités with white bean dip beforehand. Hand-buttered garlic bread alongside. A glass of Chardonnay that I pour myself. Maybe two. And tomorrow I’ll wage mental war on tater tot night.