If you had ever told me that I would wake up at 8:30 in the morning with thoughts of trying a new recipe pushing me out of bed and into the kitchen, I would’ve laughed in your face. And probably gone back to bed. I don’t know if was some kind of subconscious backlash against the idea of a woman in the kitchen or youthful ignorance or perhaps the unhealthy marriage of the two, but in my early twenties I proudly flaunted my lack of culinary skills with the ever-so-original boast, “I can barely boil water.”
I had an idea of the ultimate modern woman and she was hybrid of Holly Golightly and Carrie Bradshaw – too chic and busy with her glamorous career and exciting social life to be bothered with cooking. The previous tenant of the condo I moved into my last year of university had used the oven as extra storage for her shoes. This tidbit was shared with me by the realtor showing me the place and I remember thinking it was just so fabulous – obviously I was meant to live here, seeing as how the former inhabitant was a kindred spirit.
Of course, I now co-own a restaurant and my thoughts of food and what it means to make your own have changed (although I do still support the local economy by frequenting Main Street, North Creek food-centric businesses on a weekly basis). But more than that, I matured alongside a nation that was becoming obsessed cooking shows, chefs and the culinary world. Cooking was suddenly sexy and glamorous. Of course, if you’ve ever worked in a kitchen that boasts no A.C. and one small window in July then you might choose a few other descriptors for your career of choice.
When I started making desserts for barVino (to supplement the amazing ones we buy from Cafe Sarah – I leave the heavy lifting to the talented women there), I thought it would be an occasional occurrence – something I’d run as a special every now and then rather than actually having staples on our dessert menu. This is because I’m a pretty lazy baker and as I wrote previously, Cafe Sarah does the real baking – the elegant opera cake and the perennial favorite that is their decadent flourless chocolate torte. I will only attempt recipes that are under 10 ingredients (6 is my favorite) and require no more than two bowls (I don’t count the one I use if I need to separate eggs). I choose the recipe for the coconut milk based spiced pot de creme we serve at barVino because it was the first one I found that didn’t require a water bath. That it is utterly delicious and incredibly easy to make (click here for the recipe) are added bonuses that only encourage my laziness.
Still, I find that baking – or cooking, to a lesser degree – not only fills me with a sense of accomplishment, but is also a meditative process. If my baking was required on a larger scale for the restaurant, I think some of the joy it gives me would be diminished, but the amount that I bake at the moment is perfect. The precise measurements that follow experimentation, the confidence I know have to tackle new projects, the quiet in the kitchen when no one else is there – all these little things give me a square of space in the midst of a hectic world that settles me.
Of course, there are disasters along the way – or desserts that would be wonderful for a dinner party but don’t hold up in a restaurant – but even the f*@! ups are worth my time. And hey, I always get to eat the mistakes!