Challenge: Mastering Cheffery

great cooks

Yup. I just made up a word. 

It seems like a lifetime since I wasn’t t talking about The Kid. He’s fine. Starting second 12th grade year soon. Hopefully, he’ll finish this time. 

But back to my fancy new word. I was talking to The Hero and he said something really interesting to me:

“Dee, you’re good at a lot of things…. I wonder what you would be like if you took one thing and just mastered it. I don’t care what it is. I would just like to see how great you could be at something.”

Oh yeah? Is that a challenge? Because I accept and annihilate worthy challenges. I  had to decide what I wanted to master though. Can you guess? Yes, food.

I’ve probably written it somewhere on the blog, but I spend a lot of time thinking about food. I think about breakfast while eating dinner. I’m always planning my next meal or how to feed people I love. Food for me is love. Not in a co-dependent way, but it’s my love for people expressed in taste buds. Case in point: I don’t necessarily like chocolate desserts, but I perfected chocolate cake because The Hero loves it. Or… interesting birthday cake combos for The Kid (the year of the almond cookie cups with lemon cupcakes inside) because I love him. Food = love.

Sigh. I have to go back. I forgot that I haven’t been writing. On July 14, I decided to start the 4-Hour Body eating plan. It’s… boring to say the very least: meat, legume and vegetable. Every meal. Five days straight. No bread, fruit, cheese (OMG… I miss cheese!), dairy or sweets. Want to know why I stick with it though? The sixth day… cheat day. A day devoted to scarfing any and everything I love in a 20-hour period (yes, I try to stay up 20 hours just to eat) without counting calories or thinking about portion control. Chili for breakfast on Monday isn’t so bad when I know on Saturday I’m going to have cinnamon toast crunch French toast Belgian waffles with four orders of candied bacon and a side of red velvet pancakes from Super Chefs. Not bad at all.

For all it’s greatness (lost 10 pounds), like I said, it’s boring. On Thursday morning, those lentils are like eating round pieces of sawdust at 5:30 a.m. So I figured if I’m going to master cheffery, I need to start with my bland diet. First thing was to figure out what beans are available to me. Since I didn’t eat beans regularly, all I could think were black, pinto, kidney, Great Northern and lentils. After a little research, I found there are hundreds of different beans. Hundreds, people. Who knew?

The second thing I found out: beans get old. So now, as an emerging bean snob, I only buy them in bulk from Whole Foods, North Market, or Luckys. When I become a full snob, I’ll only order them from Rancho Gordo. Until then, Whole Foods, North Market, and Luckys work. As an evolving snob, I had to up my seasoning and spice game too. Plain salt?! How DARE you?! We only eat smoked salt here. I’m now starting to experiment with chipotle, fleur de sal, pink Himalayan and merlot salts. I’m considering making coffee salt. Yes. Coffee salt. I went to Penzys Spices and bought a bunch of spices to make my own blends. I guess I’m a spice snob now too because all the Penzys spices are sitting on the counter, waiting for me to throw away all the Food Club containers in my cabinet. Anything to make those beans taste better.

Then there’s the meat. Like beans, eating meat the same way all the time sucked. I had to figure out a way to flavor it without added sugar. You won’t believe it, but out of nine spices and blends at the grocery store, only two of them didn’t contain sugar. TWO! I have a date with the spice grinder to make my own. First on the list: sazon and Chinese five-spice. 

Finally, I’m going to actually write down my cooking notes. I substitute or at the last minute have a brilliant idea that another ingredient will taste better, but never remember either what combinations or amounts I used. I definitely didn’t write down tasting notes or comments from The Hero. Not anymore. I’ll be chronicling everything. 

The next phase of the plan is to consider culinary classes. I don’t know that I want to be a chef, but the idea of learning culinary techniques is actually exciting. And maybe with some formal knowledge, I’ll be better equipped to develop my own recipes. Like coffee salt. 

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