To be, or not to be, a great cook, that is the question?
Is it the better part of valour to not poison one’s dinner guests, or does one take the time-honoured view that they are deserving of being the first to taste one’s new culinary creations, no matter how close those dinner friends are? Your view will depend on how many times you have experienced food poisoning, or gagged on a dish you would never, in your wildest dreams, ever eat! How many ‘points’ for trying do you give the budding chef?
As someone who never learned to cook properly (my mother wasn’t really that domesticated, preferring to dine out as frequently as possible, a habit I’ve absorbed from her without any great strain), I am always envious of those who can whip up a creative and most delicious dish with seeming ease. My ex-husband had that gift, to the extent he could have become a chef if he’d been so inclined, but, he wasn’t. ‘Tis a pity, as I enjoy the sociability of a good dining out experience with a small group of close and good friends, and would have loved to have an exclusive little cafe at a seaside resort, serving just a few specials prepared by him. I would have been the highly creative barista, seducing our customers to try each new blend I concocted. Of course, I would have made sure the coffee-sensory overload wafted onto the footpath outside the cafe, to entice the people into our lair. My own contribution to this little enterprise would be to make sure we had the absolutely most deliciously delicious locally home-made true European tortes and small cakes, such as Sacher Torte, the true Black Forest cake, the Kugelhupf, a proper Austrian apple strudel, and so on. My European background wouldn’t have allowed for anything less! Just a few would be available each day at the cafe to keep things fresh, varying the offerings as the mood took me or the season demanded.
Even ‘though I’m not a good cook, having been brought up on plenty of dining out experiences, both good and bad, I’ve developed a gourmet taste and can always find gourmet quality for beer prices; that is my special gift, being resourceful and dollar-wise when it comes to finding new cafes and restaurants, and always willing to try new food tastes. My current favourites are Thai and Indian freshly cooked, of mild to medium spiciness, as well as contemporary Australian dining based around locally-sourced seasonal fresh produce. Fresh is best, in my view, and not too spicy as I like to taste the truth of the ingredients; in other words, just enough spices, herbs etc to bring out its true flavour and not overpowering it. Jamie Oliver-styled simple, healthy and very delicious dishes is what I have in mind; his 15-minute meals TV shows is a good example.
Watching MasterChef Australia on TV brings home to me how much I would really like to know how to cook, but not just any type of cooking. It is great to see young and not so young hopefuls having a go at making their dream come true. It is fascinating to see them develop as the show progresses and the challenges become harder. One is always surprised at those who don’t make it through. Of course, part of the enjoyment I get from this show is the use of my imagination – I can see myself there, doing it along with the other contestants and seeing myself the final winner; what a wonderful fantasy! The only truly disappointing side to all the culinary creativity I see on the TV screen is that I can’t smell it! Perhaps we need some highly ingenious TV or computer technologist to develop smellavisionTV or smellavisionPC! I’d certainly buy it! I am looking forward to the 2013 show, and will also be particularly interested in the new Professionals version with top chef Marco Pierre White. Don’t miss it!
As compensation for my lack of culinary skill, I indulge my love of food by taking photographs of meals I have eaten in various places, and presenting them to others on my blogs (past and present). Just like the image above – Warm tapioca and sweet corn pudding with fresh home-made mango ice cream. Interesting combination. Absolutely yummy! Served at a great find in Melbourne’s CBD, Cookie, located in Curtin House, Swanston Street, close to Lonsdale Street. I recommend a visit, for the culinary experience and the sensory experience of its decor, and the people-watching!