Steven’s remarked many times since I’ve met him that he’s most surprised and impressed by how simply I cook for others, how little I try to impress. It never occurred to me that I wasn’t trying hard, but I guess I grew up watching my mom spend two days preparing stir-fried rice noodles, pork-bamboo shoot stew, and spareribs for 40 people. And that, to me, seemed like a pretty massive effort on her part.
I don’t know why it never occurs to me to make three kinds of pasta from scratch or to make foie gras en croûte. It’s not like the things I do make aren’t time-consuming or really that uncomplicated; it’s just that when I cook at home, I make things I want to eat at home, and that tends not to be multi-course extravaganzas requiring a PacoJet and alginate. I mean, that’s the kind of food I go out for (and even then, I’d much rather have a superlative char kway teow than gold-dusted lamb belly flan with mint “caviar” — not a real dish, but one can just imagine). When I’m at home, or even in someone else’s home, I want to eat the vegetables that I picked up last Saturday from my CSA. Or whatever I saw at the Greenmarket that day. Or bucatini all’amatriciana. Or rice porridge with roasted eel and fermented black beans. Or black bean soup.
I guess the point Steven’s making is close to this one. Maybe all this eating out and Iron Chef/Top Chef-ification has made expectations such that most people in my general demographic would rather be eating an 8-course tasting menu instead of chicken pot pie and green bean casserole. Even if it IS the biggest chicken pot pie ever (and required stock and roasted carcasses of two organic, free-range chickens, plus CSA carrots and onions, Greenmarket potatoes and celery, and a whole lot of standing around, poking, and stirring. Not to mention pastry crust taming.).