On Cooking.

So last night I made Thai Curry with Rice and Chicken with Thai Peanut Dip.

Okay, so my friend Thomas helped me make it.

We made the curry and peanut dip from scratch.  Here's our ingredient list:

Limes
Chicken
Brown Sugar
Lemongrass
2 Cans of Coconut Milk
Green Beans
Eggplant
Green Bell Peppers
Zucchini
Fish sauce
Soy Sauce
Garlic
Rice
Peanut Oil and Peanuts
Curry Paste

Many of you know this:  I am not a cook.  I know how to make one or two basic meals but I feel completely incompetent in the kitchen.  I don't know where things are.  Even if I did I wouldn't know what to do with them.  So learning to cook is a little bit of a stretch for me.

But hey, it's about time.

So Thomas came over to my apartment and stood over my shoulder with a glass of wine, coaching me through the chopping and sauteing of the vegetables.  The mincing of the garlic and the pouring of the coconut milk at just the right time into the pans.  Half way through I said, "Hey, next week could we try something a little simpler?"  He laughed and said, "Yeah...now that we're doing this I'm realizing how complicated it is."

What I like about Thomas' style of cooking is that he kind of wings it.  He's also a great teacher.  I wanted to do everything just right-- as if by chopping the eggplant in 1/4" slices rather than 1/5" slices was going to make that big a difference.  As if there's a right and wrong spoon to use in mixing the curry.  He'd answer my very specific and anxiety-ridden questions for a while, but towards the end he just started saying, "Whatever you think."  You've got the ingredients right. You're not an idiot.  Chop the vegetables how you want.  Mix the curry with whatever you want.  And occasionally he'd say-- "No-- use this."

I think this could also be true of life.  There's a recipe.  There are some basic guidelines to making a life come out tasty.  But there's lots of room for improvisation.  You can change the recipe a lot before it comes out as something else.  Last night we added too much vegetables in our green curry and Thomas just said, "Okay, this is going to be more of a vegetable dish than curry."  He rolled with it.  It was his job to help me not make many big mistakes (like mixing in laundry detergent or something) and he would tell me what he likes to do sometimes.  He also helped me adjust when I strayed from the recipe.  And in the end he helped me take one small step towards being comfortable in my own kitchen.

On last thing:  we also talked about why he loved to cook.  We talked about what it means to him, where he is in his life and how cooking nurtures his soul as well as his stomach.  He said his job is so intangible that it's nice to come home and create something.  "Like legos that you eat," says I.  "Sure," Thomas said.  It made a lot of sense to me.  I could see cooking playing that role in my life, too.

So thanks, Thomas.  Here's to good friends and great food and the art of creating something tasty.

...and to simpler recipes.

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