Thursday, May 14, 2009

Getting back to it

Portlanders love their brunch. I've never heard of another city that is as maniacally into late breakfast as Portland. While I hate the idea of spending $20 on a meal I can make at home for $3 and without the 40-minute wait, count me guilty--I love breakfast any time of the day and I'm a big fan of bacon and sausage, not to mention quality time with friends around giant plates of carbohydrates.

Today, my dear friends Bonnie and Jim were the recipients of brunch at Casa Del Ingrid:

Jim and Bonnie
Jim looks stoked, doesn't he?

Hello, blueberry buttermilk pancakes with caramelized bananas, cheesy black bean and cilantro scramble, and chicken breakfast sausages. Nice to meet you.


While it's nothing out of the ordinary for a person to be making a meal for her friends, my recent (and more frequent) forays into home cooking are something of a revelation for me.

Six months ago, the mere thought of putting the energy into making a meal for myself outside of work was enough to make me take a long nap. I went through a stretch of several months where I ate nothing but post-work bar food, Pita Pit and canned soup. The greatest secret shame was my freezer--stacked with frozen dinners, chicken fingers and a Hot Pocket or two.

While I have nothing against a good ham and cheese Hot Pocket every now and then, it was truly depressing to think that I was so exhausted from cooking awesome food all day that I couldn't save any of that energy to treat myself. Between school and work, I'd go whole days sustained on a granola bar eaten on the three block walk to school and a dry pastry (the results of newbie patisserie students) on the walk to work.

What's so guilt-inducing about not cooking for myself was the idea that I was lacking in not just physical energy but creative energy as well. As a rookie in a professional kitchen, I'm often so focused on the particulars of technique involved in cooking my chef's recipes that I often forsook my capacity for creativity.

In the past few months, however, something changed. Maybe it has to do with moving into a place with a proper kitchen, or maybe it's the encouragement I get from my friend and coworker Jordan who is constantly whipping up awesome baked goods and soups at home, but the excitement and appeal of coming up with something in my own kitchen has reformed itself. I started buying whole chickens again to break down into pieces for soups and stocks, and I'm finding myself excited about coming up with yummy goodness late at night with the scraps of meat or veggies I get to bring home every now and then after work.

I'd like to think it has something to do with becoming more comfortable with myself as a cook. All day long I'm surrounded by people who are more experienced and more knowledgeable than me in the culinary field, and though there's no better place in which to learn, it can be incredibly intimidating. On my worst days, I'd find myself thinking in despair, 'How the fuck will I ever be as good as these people?' Add to that the fact that I'm a perfectionist who never likes to be wrong and it's a fine recipe for quick self-destruction, or at least early-onset ulcers.

Maybe one could say I've started to find my sea legs. Regardless of what it is, there were some happy bellies in Portland today. Here's hoping I keep making cooking at home into a more frequent occurrence.


Boogie Man Montoya said...

Being a perfectionist myself, and knowing the pressure that this industry focused on consistency and innovation can cause, I understand completely.

And I suppose it's not about getting as good as others, so much as constantly building up those dishes and techniques that make you feel good about the world. It's amazing sometimes how just tackling that favorite dish over and over again can lead to inspiration, and still boggle the minds of those who watch you make it. That and an open mind can and should take you plenty far.

Or maybe I'm just strange. I'll quit philosophizing now.

Matt said...

i enjoy braising meats, shredding them, feee=zing the excess and whipping up little quickie meals. Par exemple (oo la la), i have recently been on a big pork hock kick as i find the flavor to induce an oralgasm every time i eat it. Post shred i have been making pulled pork sammies with homemade BBQ sauce, tacos with homemade tortillas (thank you Robert Rodriguez) and then your usually post-shift gruel. One I have really come to like is spaghetti with canned tuna and Sriracha. Mmmmm. Anyways I suppose I need to comment on something relevant to the post. I love brunch. When I was living in Toronto I was on a constant search for the perfect lunchy, breakfasty fusion. If ever in the city try Musa on a Sunday. I thought it was pretty tight.

Carrie said...

looked like a delicious brunch! lol @ dry pastries!

and as a fellow perfectionist who is near self-destruction, i applaud your culinary AND writing skills, my friend. Keep up the great work - i love reading your adventures :)