Home cooking

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.).


5 Responses to “Home cooking”

  1. 1 fwc October 18, 2007 at 10:38 am

    i’m totally down w/ home cooking. i think there was a NY times article a while back about how ridiculous entertaining at home had gotten, w/ couples going to unbelievable lengths to one-up others. quite ridiculous.

  2. 2 deep fryer October 19, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    I love to cook too but I know what you mean about making 5,6 or 7 course meals when your only feeding a few people. I like to use a crock pot for those 6 to 8 hour recipes. If I am just whipping up a simple meal ( for those days I don’t have a lot of time to cook ) I can cook a piece of meat in a pan and just make a sauce from the drippings. I agree with you about simply going out if you want an extravagant meal. The atmosphere is cool too.

  3. 3 Sabrina October 19, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    I totally agree with you about cooking simply to entertain. After all, you want to be able to chat with your friends and not be stuck in the kitchen during the course of dinner.

    BTW, are you somehow from Singapore/Malaysia? You mention “char kway tiao” in your post…

  4. 4 winyang October 21, 2007 at 3:35 pm


    I’m actually of Taiwanese extraction. We’re probably on par with Singaporeans in reputation for food-obsessedness, but I grew up on beef noodle soup, stir-fried rice noodles, and our yummy, greasy version of sticky rice (with pork chunks and peanuts). Are you Singaporean? I’ve heard so many amazing thing about the street food there (the Trillin piece in the New Yorker food issue being the most recent of these), that it’s high on my list of go-to destinations.

    Thanks for visiting and leaving your $0.02.

  5. 5 Sabrina October 23, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    Hi Winnie,

    Yes, I am Singaporean. I’m not sure if the Taiwanese can beat our food obsession. 😛 Let’s put it this way, there are limited entertainment options in Singapore beyond eating and shopping so we are very good at both. Haha. And yes, Singaporean street food is really good. I have found places in NY but nowhere that knocks my socks off yet. Plus you cannot replicate the experience of eating outdoors in the balmy evening air.


    p.s. I love pork too

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