Olds adages aren't always true. Take, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," for example. Of course you can. It may take longer, and there may be more mishaps along the way, but I am here on my soapbox to say that it can be done.
Case in point: I prepared a rather wonderful dinner (even if I do say so myself) for Saint Paul (see previous blog) and his wife the other night. Forthwith, we shall refer to the saint's wife as Minneapolis.
Saint Paul and I both perform the lion's share of cooking in our households. I notice that this is a growing trend. I'm not sure if men are taking to the kitchen as a result of a spiritual urge to nurture or out of desperation to taste cuisine other than toast, crackers, and cereal. I leave that for each dear reader to sort out according to his or her situation.
I am rather a latecomer to the culinary scene, at least on the preparatory side of the equation, although I have been a prodigious and enthusiastic consumer for lo these many years. When life became kind enough to offer me the opportunity to do more of the things that I wanted, I found myself beginning to rifle through cookbooks. It must say something about my age when perusing Julia Child's delicacies appeals to me more than admiring the ample bounty of Miss October's provender, for example.
And so, I prepared my first full course meal for company the other night: perhaps my first full course meal for anyone. I usually content myself with cooking the main dish and letting all of the other consumables fall where they may. But, I laid out the whole enchilada, so to speak, for Minneapolis and Saint Paul the other night: soup as an appetizer, lasagna for the main course, and banana cream pie for dessert. By nature, I am somewhat self-deprecating, but I must concur with my guests that the entire repast was most excellent.
The kicker is that they were all light recipes. If you're willing to try, you will find all sorts of wonderful, light fare these days. But people are strange; they will compliment you on a meal: "That's the best phibberstrum that I ever had." When you tell them that it's light, healthy phibberstrum, their confusion becomes apparent as they can't help but blurt that they don't like low-fat cooking.
"But didn't you just tell me that was the best phibberstrum that you've ever had?"
"Yes, I did, and it was, but I don't like light cooking."
Is it just me ('me' is really supposed to be 'I' you know, but it sounds ever so poncey, and I therefore opt for bad grammar), or does the dear reader also detect the teeniest of brain malfunctions in the above converse?
I did mention earlier (about six pages ago you must be thinking by now) that there are pitfalls (or should I say pratfalls?) that result from the process of endeavouring to teach old canines fresh tricks. The other night, for example, the soup recipe called for a minced clove of garlic. No problem. It then called for a whole clove. No problem. Plop goes a whole clove of garlic into the pot. (You probably, dear reader, spot the difficulty already.)
When it was soup, so to speak, I asked my own dear wife, who prefers not to be named after a city, so we'll call her Louisiana, what to do with the whole clove of garlic. Should I remove it from the mixture before blending, or should I just chuck it in the blender along with all of the other cooked ingredients? Poor Louisiana looked rather perplexed for a while. After some cogitation and poring over the cookbook, my beloved pronounced me mentally deficient and, before my startled eyes, held up a clove. I now know that there are cloves of garlic and there are cloves — period. Happily enough, despite my gaffe, the end product was quite scrumptious.
There also springs to mind one of my earliest attempts in the kitchen. A certain recipe, which time has mercifully erased from my diminishing memory banks, called for six green onions. So, I began to chop ... and I chopped. I chopped while Louisiana got ready to go out somewhere and was still chopping furiously when she reappeared all ready to eat supper before going out. When I say furiously, I admit to having become a trifle testy about the whole ordeal. In fact I was on the edge of rebellion as I surveyed my mountain of onions, vowing: "By gum, I'm taking a stand; I'm going to make do with just five onions. Take that, Julia!"
It was then that Louisiana explained to me the nature of green onions as opposed to cooking onions. Louisiana just loves to tell that story. Over and over to everyone she meets. In fact, she has a lot of good stories featuring this poor sod who is neither state nor city but sometimes feels like the village idiot.
Granted, my feeble attempts at humour might not seem so uproarious by morning light, but I'm actually quite serious about the central tenet: that we can and indeed must always keep striving in this life. That doesn't always entail embracing new hobbies such as breeding kittens, knitting doilies, or enrolling in arcane courses, but it does mean that we need to maintain and expand our interests. Living is a process after all, and we humans harbour an innate need to keep processing our brains in some way. We must go forward because, when we try to stand still, we inevitably slip backwards.