Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The No. 1 Rule of Cooking

Last night I taught my first cooking class for Sur La Table at The Grove! Dear reader, I was so nervous. I got a call a few days ago asking if I could sub for a teacher who suddenly canceled. I've learned when the Universe drops a gift in my lap the correct response is, Thank you! But my impulse is to doubt myself and believe I'm not enough. I've taught plenty of cooking classes for birthday parties or groups of friends and they've always been a hit, but Sur La Table is an official entity. A corporation I seem helpless against giving lots of my money to: they have such fun toys! Now they're going to pay me? I will represent them? Whoa. I wasn't sure I was worthy.
Check it out, the menu was ambitious: Crab and Avocado Tostadas; Roast Pork Loin with Mole (a streamlined version, the original takes 3 days, sweet Lord); Chicken Enchiladas with Green Olives, Three Chile Rice (though the recipe included only 2 kinds of chiles, very mysterious); Spinach, Orange and Jicama Salad with a Toasted Cumin Vinaigrette; a Tres Leches Cake; and homemade Jamaica Tea that we turned into margaritas.
Fortunately it was a hands-on class, not all demonstration, but still I was plagued by those "You're not qualified, you gringa imposter" evil whispering voices in my head. So I did what I've learned to do in these situations: I prayed to the Goddess of my kitchen to help me be of service by teaching folks to be happy in their kitchens. Then I completely over-prepared because I can't help myself.
Last summer I taught an excellent "Mexican Cooking for Gringos" cooking class for a birthday party, so I dug up my notes from that shindig. Then I did lots more research on the cuisine de Mexico, all its amazing indigenous ingredients (tomatoes started there, not in Italy), and finally went through the recipes with my crazy-obsessive attention to detail.

And you know what? It was fantastic! I lectured for a half hour on this nuanced cuisine and its ingredients, then took everybody through the recipes so they'd be prepared for the work ahead. The students loved it: they paid attention, asked questions, and were intrepid cooks as they boldly attempted new techniques and tried different flavors. I cracked jokes, sung the praises of the Aztec God who gave us chocolate, and taught them the Tory Davis No. 1 Rule of Cooking.

Do you know the rule, dear reader? Ok, pay attention because this is important:
You can always order pizza.

Take a minute, reflect on this. It's good, right? Basically, we don't have to be afraid to try something new in the kitchen because the worst that can happen is we'll completely ruin it. And then you order pizza. Pizza will arrive at your house in under an hour and everybody likes it. No big deal. I feel there's a larger lesson in there somewhere, but hey, I just talk food.

So join me dear readers, if you're so inclined and live around LA, for the next class I'm teaching. June 25th, back at Sur La Table, we'll have some fun doing Easy Mexican Cooking. As my business card says, Today is all we have. Why not eat well?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In Defense of Cheap Ice Cream

In this glorious gelato rennaissance, pinkberry madness, and age of super-premiun ice cream, I will take a decidedly low-brow stance in defense of cheap frozen treats. *gasp* I know, I know, what kind of food snob goes to bat for neon green, metallic-tasting mint peppered with waxy chocolate shards that taste how they look: brown? I'll tell you: the very best of food snobs. Or maybe I'm just a foodie, no need to add the snob?

Dear reader, fellow eater, how can we know light if we never stumble through the dark? How can we feel soaring joy if we don't wail over bitter loss? I would argue it is impossible to taste the ecstasy of the most delicate, sensuous black currant-tarragon gelato (created by an emissary of the Goddess herself, more on that later) if we have not first contemplated the cool creaminess and bracing minty edge of a thin paper cup full of .99¢ Rite Aid hot pink peppermint ice cream.

So thank you, cheap pink peppermint sugar rush. Without you, I would not feel the vast expanse of joy that rises when I'm blessed by heaven's coolest confections.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Ice Chest Cometh

I have a confession, dear reader: my freezer froze shut, and it made my life unmanagable! Oh sure, I was in denial for a while (who needs ice cubes? it's not summer), but then last week my friend LeeAnn called in a crisis: the compressor in her fridge had blown, could she borrow some fridge and freezer space until tomorrow? Alas, I had only fridge space to share, there was no getting into the icebox. How humiliating.
Though shame is usually an obstacle to growth, in this situation I found it very motivating. Yesterday I attacked that sucker, finally!, and though it took forever and ever and ever (good thing this is a slow week, jeez), I'm delighted to report I enjoyed some very cold ice cubes in my drink last night. I also discovered a gorgeous dorado filet my friend Brendan brought back from a fishing expedition. There are rewards to cleaning up.
Here is the freezer at its worst:

Thank goodness I still have my hairdryer from 1989.

The first time I defrosted this ridiculous appliance, I noticed instructions on the inside of the freezer door, "Never Use Sharp-Pointed Instruments To Remove Frost." Wait, you mean like a knife? I bet that would work really well...

Hey look! I own corn!

Wow, it was mostly frost and ice in there. Looks kind of foreboding (don't worry, this doesn't end with anyone's pinky emerging from the ice, though it would be more exciting. If only I were a Soprano.)

Only in L.A. do many apt.s not come with a fridge. I think it's due to the general food phobia (Oh my god, will that make me fat?), and the competitive nature of housing here. When I moved in, my landlords informed me that the fridge came with the place, but when it died I would have to replace it. sigh. I'm trying to make it last a little longer. We'll see. I think it's older than my dad.
Anyway, I read that putting in a pot of boiling water speeds the process...

When did I buy popsicles?

And if 1 pot works well, I bet 2 would be twice as nice.

Ohh! That speeds things up! Can you see the steam? Cool.

Who has unexpressed rage?

So many chunks of frost

Ewww, this is all the dirty melted ice water

And finally, here is the finished space! Look, there's lots of food!

I celebrated by buying a frozen pizza to store in there, but that didn't work out so well because I ate it.