At first I didn’t think so, but it was the best compliment to the chef I’ve ever received. “You’re like the rat!” I was told.
“The rat! Remi! In [the Disney film] Ratatouille!” exclaimed my lovely boyfriend. It was the first time I was preparing dinner for him. He was quite proud of his observation.
I hadn’t yet seen this animated film, so we watched it together after dinner. “Ah, I see,” I said, realizing (and appreciating) my similarity to the charming cartoon rat. We both smell ingredients to figure out if and how they’ll work together in a dish, making the recipes up as we go. It’s wonderful.
I read cookbooks for inspiration. I am honestly terrible at following recipes. I can roughly follow a recipe, sure. But I’m not the math and science type at all. Baking? Forget it. I cook with ingredients, approximations, a heap of hope, a splash of trust and a glass of wine.
I’ve recently forayed into the world of soup-making. My first victims: a butternut squash soup followed by a potato leek soup. I should really purchase an immersion blender, rather than put my archaic magic bullet through its paces; but as fun as fancy gadgets are, I don’t need them (except for my silicon spatulas, those are essential). What do I enjoy the most about cooking? It’s the aromas and that first taste of the finished meal. I feel so proud.
For the butternut squash soup, I sautéed the white part of finely (and ruggedly) chopped green onions in white wine and minced garlic. Um, hello!?! SMELLS AMAZING. I baked the butternut squash pieces in the oven until they were soft and able to be easily pierced, heavily drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, himalayan rock salt (the pink stuff) and a mixture of fresh and dried sage. Instead of milk or water, I used almond milk to thin my soup out. It tasted okay, but it need something… what… a kick? What did I have in the fridge that might work as a “topper”? I chopped up the rest of the green onions–the green part–and added those along with crumbled goat cheese and, my weakness, broken pieces of crispy bacon. FAN.TAS.TIC.
So how did I make that again?
The following week, I made another batch. It tasted even better this time. Now, I’ll forever remember how to make my butternut squash soup. Most at-home cooks actually measure the ingredients used and record them, on a recipe card. I should do this too.
The potato leek soup? Same idea as the butternut squash soup. Boiled potatoes. Leeks lightly sautéed in some butter and then steamed until they’re soft. Mash it all together. Tarragon. Salt. Pepper. Almond milk. Blend. Reheat in pot on stovetop. Top with tiny, crispy pieces of bacon, shredded old cheddar cheese, and freshly chopped chives. Yes. Amazing. Everything in moderation (unless it makes you fart a lot… er… girls don’t fart).
My soups were almost as amazing as the first time I barbequed cedar plank salmon with basil pesto and lemon. It was perfection. Pure perfection. Most of us are busy. Work, School. Kids maybe. Pets. Work. Social drama. Work. Traffic. Sleep deprivation. We rarely take the time to really savour the little things, like the taste of falls-apart, tender, juicy, actually-melts-in-your-mouth, healthy cedar plank salmon. Seriously. For just a succulent moment, the world is perfect.
Stop and smell the flowers? Stop and smell the herbs and spices. Stop and taste the food. We have to eat to live, so why not enjoy the experience?
“How can I describe it? Good food is like music you can taste, color you can smell. There is excellence all around you. You need only to be aware to stop and savour it.” ~ Chef Auguste Gusteau, Ratatouille
Trellawny has been teaching herself to cook for the past few years. She claims neither to be a chef nor a cook, just a girl who makes the most of making meals. You can check her out on YouTube, Instagram and www.distancedish.com.