I don’t love to cook; in fact, I don’t even like it all that much. Sure, I make a mean brisket, a respectable eggplant parmigiana, a well-reviewed ziti with meat sauce, and an assortment of other “not bad, pretty good” entrées. But, if I’m really honest with myself, when it comes to cooking, I’d rather be doing something else. Like eating leftovers (I realize, of course, that in order to have leftovers, you have to have cooked previously — unless they’re leftovers from yesterday’s restaurant dinner); ordering in a pizza; or busting open a bag of tortilla chips and calling it dinner.
But, while cooking is not a joy for me, reading about it is. I love to read cookbooks the way some people read novels. I love to read cooking magazines the way some people read Vogue. And I love to read the food section of the paper the way some people read — I don’t know, the comics? Sports? Arts & Leisure? Anyone?
I think that the joy of cooking skipped a generation in my family. My mom was a wonderful cook, so I never felt the need to learn how. In fact, when B. and I moved in together 23 years ago, his kitchen skills far outshone mine. (To this day, he thinks his recipes for tarragon chicken and amaretto sweet potatoes seduced me and won my heart — don’t tell him, but I was a sure thing.)
To help me learn how to cook all those years ago, I purchased the 1997 edition of Joy of Cooking, the legendary bible written by Irma S. Rombauer in 1931 and updated several times since. I tried, I really did, but I found that rather than mincing garlic, I’d rather find a way to mince words in a too-long headline I was working on. Rather than blending together oil and balsamic vinegar to make the perfect vinaigrette, I’d rather be blending together the perfect cast of characters in a story I was writing. And rather than skimming fat off the top of turkey gravy, I’d rather be skimming the New York Times Sunday Book Review to find my next great read.
What I did enjoy, though, was reading Joy of Cooking. From bruschetta to brioche, from paprikash to polenta, from filet mignon to fondant — reading these recipes satisfied my soul in a way that only the best fiction can. What it didn’t do was make me want to dash into the kitchen and whip up any of them.
So our dinners are more simple, our once-in-a-while desserts no more elaborate than really good brownies (or Ina Garten’s mind-blowing chocolate ganache cupcakes, which I make for B.’s birthday). It seems that I’m more likely to take the time to bake something special than to sauté, flambé, roast, or toast.
The 2019 edition of Joy of Cooking was just released this week — touting 600 new recipes and 4000 favorites. Will I, an admitted non-lover of cooking, buy it?
Of course. Every delicious word.
Joy to the girl.
©2019 Claudia Grossman