It might be the influence of marketing influences, which are especially apparent this time of year, but Ive always associated real cooking with gourmet cooking, the sort of cooking which seems to require granite countertops and lots of stainless steel appliances. The general rule of gourmet cooking seems to be the more expensive or obscure your ingredients, the more sophisticated you are.
I generally shy away from this sort of cooking for any number of reasons. In the first place Im lazy, and generally broke. In the second place, due to painful childhood experiences Ive discussed in previous columns, I dont like to cook for other people and making Brined Roast Chicken with Wine just for just myself would be stupid and not a little narcissistic.
Ive found that once you buy the demi-glace, the Tulocay mustard, the grapeseed oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and the wild Alaskan king salmon (all of this is available on the Williams-Sonoma website by the way) the cost of simply going out to eat at your neighborhood Indian restaurant doesnt seem so prohibitive. Since the main point of a meal is the conversation, and I can contribute to the conversation better by not setting my kitchen on fire, yelling when the brulee doesnt set, or pestering people with questions about whether they really liked my cooking on balance Id much rather go out for a meal than cook it myself.
But the point of this article was not to poke fun at gourmets, although that can certainly be fun. At Christmas I always feel that we are caught between the caterers and grocery stores, with their pre-fabricated food, and the $800 Williams-Sonoma coffee maker, which seems to be begrudging us the fact that our lives are not like the ones in the Anthropologie catalog.
Common sense often takes a back seat at Christmas, but it helps me to remember, as I look at my scuzzy, dark kitchen filled with other peoples dishes, that there are some things that taste better madenot boughteven in the most expensive restaurant, and they dont require a professional grade, stainless steel gas oven large enough to roast a boar. Below is a recipe for one of my favorites. n